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Drink of the Week: Wenzhou Punch

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is just around the corner, and ever since the US Congress officially declared it as such in 2007, folks in Kentucky consider the month of September "Bourbon Heritage Month". The bill passed four years ago by unanimous consent, although I suspect it was supposed to be for that year alone. Still, the idea was meant to celebrate the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon "America's Native Spirit". You could certainly argue that Applejack was distilled in America before anyone decided to make whiskey, but bourbon is by definition an American product. But there is more to the legal definition than that:

  • Only whiskey produced in the United States can be called bourbon.
  • Bourbon must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
  • Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon must be entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon, like other whiskeys, must be bottled at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period, although it must be aged at least briefly. However, the following definitions and requirements apply that relate to aging periods.
    • Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and has no added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called Straight bourbon.
    • Bourbon that is labeled as Straight that has been aged for a period less than four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
    • Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a Bourbon that is labeled as Blended, as neutral grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all).
  • Bourbon that is labeled as Blended (or as ‘a blend’) may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); however, at least 51% of such a product must be Straight Bourbon.

Ok, so that's a lot of rules, but you need to recognize that when these legal guidelines were established, it was so that whiskey makers interested in following them would be able to label their product as such. As a consumer, you can be sure about what goes into the bottle by simply reading the label. That doesn't guarantee you will like the result, and some very good whiskey isn't even bourbon at all. But defining a class of whiskey that is truly American not only set a standard to ensure a certain level of quality, but also established a tradition. Bourbon distilleries that exceed these standards have created some of the finest whiskey in the world.

That brings us to our Drink of the Week. Normally, if someone was looking for a bourbon cocktail, I might strike up a conversation about whiskey in general. Which bourbon? Have you considered rye? Do you like the flavor of a particular brand? Are you trying to complement the flavor of the spirit with something else? Are you thinking about going with a sweet flavor profile? Sour? Bitter? Do you want to mask the spirit or end up with something that lets its flavor come through? Then I would probably start pouring samples and we would all forget about making a cocktail. The drink below is called a Punch, and it comes by way of Houston's Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar and Refuge.

Wenzhou Punch (for one) originally by Bobby Heugel
2 oz bourbon
1 oz satsuma or tangerine juice
.5 oz maple syrup
.25 oz allspice liqueur (pimento dram)
Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
If you ordered this at Anvil, you would get a quadruple recipe shaken without ice. They then pour the whole works into a bowl or carafe over a big chunk of ice. It might serve 3 or 4 guests for a while, and the dilution would happen over time. I decided to try it as a cocktail and it worked out nicely. The name comes from the Chinese city known for citrus production.

Bobby calls for bourbon, but I suppose you could use any whiskey for this cocktail. That makes it a fine choice with the upcoming Bourbon Festival, and I thought a punch might help battle all of this heat we are having in the Twin Cities (a Mint Julep could also help). The satsuma juice here is essentially a seedless mandarin orange. If you use tangerine or satsuma juice it will come out better than if you simply use orange juice, but if oranges are all you have, I say use them. It's always nice to see maple syrup--the one syrup almost everyone has in the house, but the tricky ingredient in this mix is the allspice liqueur. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram is getting easier to find, and one small bottle should last the rest of your life. It's potent stuff, and a quarter-ounce is more than enough to spice up any whiskey you used. Despite being somewhat sweet, this drink goes down easy as you please.

For more information about bourbon, click here for a bunch of posts I wrote while touring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

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11 comments to Drink of the Week: Wenzhou Punch

  • It'd be interesting to try this one with Bulleit bourbon and Sazerac rye since they have roughly opposite ratios of corn and rye in their mashbills. Admittedly the healthy dose of allspice dram might cover up any changes in the rye spiciness of the base spirit. If there isn't enough contrast, you could also go for Knob Creek bourbon and Bulleit Rye which are at more or less opposite ends of the spectrum.

  • Scott

    sounds like an excellent combo, was looking for a punch for a party yesterday, missed the post, ..will get'em this next time...!

    • It's really a shortcut punch in some respects, and a bit on the sweet side for my taste. I might try it again with a little lemon juice to add balance, but maybe that's the whole point. It's nice to try something a little different, and the sweet, spicy flavor this offers fits the bill.

  • James

    Where do you get your Pimento Dram? I need it for some of my tiki rum drinks.

  • I am pretty sure I got mine at Thomas Liquor on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, and they had it last time I was in there. It's in the Haus Alpenz portfolio, so I guess we are lucky they are a local company. However, had I not found the St. Elizabeth, I was going to make it myself. There are a couple of great recipes that might well turn out better than the commercial product. If it's good enough for Dr. Cocktail, it's good enough for me. Now, I'd probably cut the proportions in half or quarter, because a little goes a long way. Uses LH 151 which I know is precious, but you have plenty, right? Check here:

    http://imbibemagazine.blogspot.com/2007/01/you-asked-doc-reveals.html

  • James

    I need to make some more Falernum anyhow, I suppose I'll have to take a shot at this too. I was disappointed when I finally found some commercial Falernum as it isn't nearly as good as what I make so I suspect the same will be true of the Pimento Dram. Thanks!

  • @James

    The St. Liz is actually a quite solid product. Lots of allspice flavor and a nice rum base. While a bit on a spendy side, you're rarely going to be using more than 1/4 oz at a time, so a bottle will probably last a lifetime. If you can't find it locally and your state allows for liquor shipping, DrinkUpNY has you covered: http://www.DrinkUpNY.com/St_Elizabeth_Allspice_Dram_p/s0713.htm

    However, I'm with you on the falernum front. While there's probably some color stripping involved, the fact that commercial falernum is almost clear kind of weird's me out. Even making syrup, not an alcoholic infusion, it always turns a very rich brown. And hey, Lemon Hart 151 is back in stores, so you can make as much as you want without worrying about running out of that nectar of the gods.

  • Paul

    I tried this today, and it was very spicy and good on the palate. I got a bottle of pimento dram from The Bitter Truth https://www.drinkology.de/the-bitter-truth-onlineshop/liqueurs-spirits/index.html, and it was very potent. I didn't try it by itself, but about 0.7cl of it was enough to spicy up the drink. I must say it looks more redish in yor picture, but colors are not always easy to capture on film, and I suppose it might depend on the dram and the tangerine juice too. The juice I extracted was deep orange, but the burbon and the dram and the maple syrup are all brownish. Anyway, it's a sweet drink yes, but the bourbon is definitely there ( I used Bulleit )and I think it's a great drink.

    • Paul, I don't think The Bitter Truth allspice product was available at the time of this writing, and my bottle of St. Elizabeth isn't going away any time soon. I am glad it worked for you. As for the color, this drink looks bright orange on my screen.

  • Paul

    Yes, orange it looks. Maybe it was just the printed copy that was alittle too red to be true. Excellent cocktail by the way!

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