Monday, July 5, 2010

Philadelphia Fish-House Punch

There’s old magic in the legend of Philadelphia Fish-House Punch and the Colony in Schuylkill. It is woods and water and smoke. It is the Fourth of July, and canoes, wet bathing suits and homemade pies. It conjures the spirit of the old republic.

The first time I made this, I used the adjusted recipe from David Wondrich that calls for brandy-based peach liqueur in place of peach brandy from peaches. Since then, a great artisanal Indian blood peach eau-de-vie by Kuchan has come on the market. Either way, the effect is quite similar: sweet and heady, subtly perfumed. This is the taste of the past. The flavors are rich and very old fashioned, though the water helps keep it light. My friends and I find that we can drink it all afternoon long in a pleasant haze.

I pretty much stuck to the proportions of the old recipe, rounding only slightly down on the sugar and up on the water for easy multiplication.

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
  • 1 pint lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 pints mixture (1 1/2 cups peach eau-de-vie, 3 cups cognac, 1 1/2 cups Jamaica rum)
  • 1 gallon water
Make a block of ice for the punch bowl by freezing water in a metal or cardboard container overnight. (Do not use glass, which will break with the expansion of the ice.) Now for the lemons. Squeezing a pint of lemon juice with a small hand press takes some patience and about 3 pounds of lemons. Before you squeeze, take off only the yellow part of the peel of 3 lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler. Muddle the peels well with the sugar.

Start squeezing lemons into a strainer over a measuring cup. Heat a quart of the water to the boiling point and pour over the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Fish out the lemon peels. Wondrich says to add the rest of the ingredients at this point and chill the whole thing, but I find that making a great vat of the stuff for a barbecue means competition with other comestibles for real estate in the refrigerator.

So I cooled it with another quart of the water, added the lemon juice, and chilled the booze mixture and remaining water separately. Assemble the punch in a large bowl over the ice block.

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