Christmas is a time of year when we consider giving some family members a punch. In the face. But rather than a knuckle sandwich, one alternative fix for a feud might be a festive mixed drink. Punch then, the drink, is the perfect serve to help you bury bygones deep in your subconscious for a night, an epic accumulation of alcohol appropriately contained in a massive bowl.
Historically punch is not a pre-determined sharing drink, in the fact word referred to a style of mixed drink rather than the size of one. The etymology nods to the Hindustani ‘panch’ meaning equal parts of five, referring to the number of ingredients originally used to make it. Tea, arrack, sugar lemons and water were amongst the first serves for 17th century English traders, arrack being the distillate popularly used throughout the South-East Asia and the middle east. It has known many forms since, including a shocking mix of cheap vodka and Thunderbird wine, served in more than one ‘free house’ (a house party rather than pub) during our adolescence.
The best bet for a warm punch is adding quality cider. The provenance of this apple alcohol is cloudy, it’s tricky getting to the core of the story since so many nations claim ownership and argue they pipped others to the post on inventing it. It’s easy to see why since wherever an apple has fallen from a tree it has fermented. But in this year of Brexit, it would be churlish for us to credit the French or Spanish, and since Trump is a teetotaller, we certainly won’t be selecting American. No, we’ll keep this British, English in fact with Aspall.
Aspall has been in the cider, or cyder, business since 1728 so they know their onions – and apples – and the Premier Cru (£11.99 for 6 at Majestic) is easy to track down and a fine addition to a punch.
But if you really want to make a scene, use the Imperial Vintage (£15.12 for 6, direct from Aspalls), using bitter sweet, culinary and desert apples, this is rich, spicy, bold and bolshie enough to stand up to the other ingredients in the bowl.
We’ve adapted a host of recipes over the years and sometimes, when the turkey is dry and spleens are spilling ire across the kitchen floor, we’ve just stuck a flask of cider in the microwave and legged it to a park bench. One recipe endures though, and it wasn’t ours, we credit the Soulshakers for this one, outstanding bartenders who’ve crafted many drinks for us around the world.
Hot Cider Punch
120ml lemon juice
300ml pressed apple juice
10 dash Angostura bitters
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
10g unsalted butter
Orange zest and apple slices
Bring all the ingredients except the alcohol to simmer in a saucepan. Add alcohol ingredients and bring back to a simmer, then serve.
The Thinking Drinkers will be providing audiences with five free drinks during performances of their acclaimed comedy show Around the World in 80 Drinks at London’s Museum of Comedy until December 23. For tickets go here
For the other entries in our 12 Drinks of Christmas series, go here