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Drink Of The Week: Summit Sips Punch

Those of you who live in the Twin Cities might already know that this Sunday is Grand Old Day, the largest one-day festival in the midwest that takes place every June along St. Paul's Grand Avenue. It's a fun time with a parade, lots of food, music, art, sporting events and so on. They even created their own iPhone app for the event. What does all that have to do with the Drink Of The Week? Well, as a St. Paul resident, I like to host a backyard barbecue every year to coincide with the huge festival, and for several years running I have served a rum punch—in fish bowls, no less! This year is no exception, but instead of my regular basic fruit juice medley, I decided to make an honest-to-history punch that would make Jerry Thomas proud.

So, who's Jerry Thomas, you might ask? Only the most famous bartender in the world. He wrote the first drink book ever published in the United States in 1862. In addition to compiling virtually all of the cocktail recipes that were being served at the time, The Bar-Tenders Guide also contains many recipes for Punch, the earliest form of mixed drink. Here's an example, exactly as it appears in his book:

Rocky Mountain Punch
(For a mixed party of 20.)
(From a recipe in the possession of Major James Foster.)

This delicious punch is compounded as follows:
5 bottles of champagne.
1 quart of Jamaica rum.
1 pint of maraschino.
6 lemons, sliced.
Sugar to taste.
Mix the above ingredients in a large punch-bowl, then place in the centre of the bowl a large square block of ice, ornamented on top with rock candy, loaf-sugar, sliced lemons or oranges, and fruits in season. This is a splendid punch for New Year's Day.

As you can see, back in Thomas's day, they really knew how to mix drinks! But where am I going to get rock candy and loaf-sugar? The maraschino refers to the liqueur such as the one made by Luxardo. This recipe is all fine and good, but Dan Stern at the Urban Farmer in Portland, Oregon serves a variation of it that adds pineapple juice to the mix. I like his version because he also tweaks the proportions, putting rum ahead of champagne and favors freshly squeezed lemon juice. He calls it Major James Foster Punch, but I have a better name.

I figured since the original was called Rocky Mountain Punch, Jerry wouldn't mind if I used "Summit" in my name for it, but who knows what Major James Foster would say about that. In any case, I am borrowing Dan Stern's recipe, and for this weekend only, it's going to be called Summit Sips Punch:

Summit Sips Punch
1.75 liter bottle of Rum
40 ounces pineapple juice
16 ounces simple syrup
6 ounces Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
4 ounces lemon juice
.5 bottle of champagne

Combine everything but the champagne in a punch bowl and chill. When ready to serve, place the bowl on a bed of ice to keep chilled and add the champagne. Float a huge chunk of ice embedded with frozen fruit and lemon slices. Drink responsibly and enjoy the parade!

2 comments to Drink Of The Week: Summit Sips Punch

  • Luke

    I had the pleasure of sampling the Summit Sips punch at Grand Old Day this weekend. The fruit and fruit juice provide a nice counterbalance of sweet and tangy flavors, yet it’s not one of those fruit drinks that masks the taste of the spirits. All the ingredients conspire to create a summertime beverage that’s refreshing and unabashedly potent. A great mix, Randy!

  • Thanks! I wish I could take more credit for it, but you're right, it was pretty potent. The proportions are odd because the pineapple has bit of tangy flavor and with all of that rum there's an over-the-top strong component that gets hidden by the sweet. It doesn't really adhere to the old punch recipe rhyme:

    One of Sour
    Two of Sweet
    Three of Strong
    And Four of Weak

    I don't know if it's Jamaican or Barbadian in origin, but this clever and easy to remember formula allows you to make a punch that stays nicely balanced. The idea is that "Sour" refers to some kind of acid, like lime juice or lemon juice. The "Sweet" can be a simple syrup that's plain or flavored, or even a liqueur. "Strong" is the spirit, whether you choose one or more types of rum, brandy, gin, whiskey and so on. Finally, the "Weak" ingredient is sometimes just water, but it can also be fruit juices or even spiced beverages like tea. This is probably a subject worthy of its own post.

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