It's pretty sad what people think is punch nowadays. What once was a delightfully strong alcoholic blend of juices, spices, tea, sugar, and liquor is now pretty much thought of as an artificially flavored fruit drink for children. Well, John Christie over at Second Story Liquor Bar in Scottsdale is here to change all of that, giving the historic beverage that pretty much helped found America and was the precursor to modern cocktails its chance back in the limelight.
His take on the classic Philadelphia Fish House Punch is infinitely more delicious than the name suggests and it's the perfect drink for your next pool party.
"One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak."
That's the basic formula for any punch, with sour being citrus juices, sweet being sugar, strong being liquors, and weak being teas and water. That formula and resulting recipe variations have been in America since before America was America, so there's pretty much no drink in the world more patriotic than this punch. According to Christie, George Washington himself was known to get tipsy off of the lemony stuff, which he once toasted with thirteen times in honor of the thirteen colonies.
It's the history of this punch and many other cocktails that makes Christie passionate about bartending, which he plans on delving into during a monthly whiskey class at his bar in the future. As a Boston native, he loves researching into the story of each drink and where it came from, citing Boston's immersive historical presence as a factor in his interest. The punch demonstrates just that for Christie, as it was a drink many famous luminaries and unknown common folk shared together in the country's past.
Served and developed in the country's oldest and still functioning social fishing club, the State of Schuylkill in 1732, the name Philadelphia Fish House Punch came way after its invention. Now when Christie serves it he says people are skeptical of the name.
"People have asked me if it has fish in it before," he says.
Obviously, it doesn't. However, this is just one of many punch recipes out there. Cocktail historian David Wondrich even has an entire book on the punch bowl called "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl" for serious punch lovers. Christie says once you get into it, you can begin to tell the time and origin of recipes just based off of their components.
Punch doesn't have to be for members of a secret club, though. Christie says the idea is much more common than you might think, like in a bowl of egg nog or sangria even, but it's rarely referred to as punch anymore.
"I think everyone has someone in the family who has a punch recipe," he says.
John Christie's Philadelphia Fish House Punch
- 1 bottle of Appelton Rum
- 1 bottle of Christian Brother's Brandy
- ½ bottle of peach brandy
- 1 quart Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea
- 1 quart freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 quart simple syrup
- 1 quart water
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Preparation: Just combine all of the elements together in your punch bowl or pitcher and let the mixture sit for 24 hours, as Christie says this allows the punch to get "tighter" in flavor.
Serving: Add one large ice block to the punch bowl or pitcher before serving. Ladle or pour the punch into glasses and garnish with whatever fruit looks best. Christie uses pineapple leaves, a pineapple wedge, and an orange slice, which give the punch a tropical look. Christie says this recipe yields about 30 glasses, so watch out!