London Punch House Punch
- 4 lemons
- 6 oz (¾ cup) white sugar
- 20 oz VSOP cognac
- 6 oz Jamaican rum (Smith & Cross, &c)
- 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
Original source: David Wondrich
Step 1: At least 24 hours before you intend to serve the punch, make a giant block of ice by filling a tupperware or other container with water and freezing it. Ideal size is one quart.
Step 2: Also at least a day before, create the magic ingredient for this whole style of punch: oleo saccharum (dog latin for “oily sugar”). Peel four lemons in unbroken spirals: the unbrokenness is mostly for style points. It’s also much easier to peel fresh lemons, as the oil in lemon peels dries out over time. Put the peels in a mason jar with 6 oz (¾ cup) of white sugar. Seal the jar, shake it to cover the peels with sugar, then leave it overnight.
Don’t refrigerate it. The peels will appear to melt as the sugar draws out the oil them. If you pop open the lid for a second and take a sniff, it will smell delicious.
Step 3: Two hours before you serve the punch, unseal the mason jar, add 6 oz (¾ cup) fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice, reseal and shake until all the sugar has dissolved. Now put it in the refrigerator.
Step 4: Assemble the punch.
- Put your ice block in a one-gallon punch bowl. (If you have any trouble getting the block out of its container, just briefly run the bottom of the container under hot water.) Shake the contents of the mason jar and pour it into the punch bowl unstrained, peels and all.
- Add 20 oz (2 and ½ cups) VSOP Cognac and 6 oz (¾ cup) Jamaican rum. Stir.
- Add 1 quart (4 cups) cold water. Stir again and grate nutmeg on top.
- Using a punch ladle, drape a few ends of the spiral lemon peels over the rim of the bowl.
- Grate nutmeg over the top.
I’ve made this a number of times over the years, and I even went to a cocktail class at the 2022 Hukilau where David Wondrich himself taught how to make it. The educational value for me was a little less than for the other attendees, but I still really enjoyed getting to meet him. I’m posting it here and adding my notes because you never know when an article on the internet’s going to disappear or go behind a paywall.
The VSOP Cognac should be a good one–I like Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula, which seems tailor-made for something like this. But don’t make the mistake of asking your average liquor store attendant for a recommendation, since the moment you mention “punch” they’ll recommend garbage. The public’s perception is that punch is unsophisticated frat-party fare. This, obviously, is a different beast.
For the rum, I’ve never tried anything other than Smith & Cross. It’s reasonably priced, widely available, and absolutely delicious. But you’ll want some pot-stilled option with a ton of flavor.
If you like making punches, you’ll want a good punch bowl. I picked a beautiful, interesting looking brass punch bowl off of eBay. (It looks like this one.) It’s impressive, but it has also soaked up hours and hours of my life in polishing and cleaning, and it also shows every bump it’s ever taken as a permament dent. I wouldn’t buy it again. But it’s hard to find glass punch bowls that don’t look like they belong at a church potluck.
Also, if you make a lot of punches and/or tiki drinks, you’ll probably want a really nice nutmeg grater someday.