Archive for August 7, 2011

Going Retro with Punch!!!

Newport Punch


My girlfriend got tapped recently to provide adult beverages for her friend’s bachelorette weekend.  This is good, no, really it is!  It gives me the opportunity to help her out and try some punch recipes I’ve been eying for a while.   Yes, punch.  What could be easier to please a crowd?  Getting flashbacks of your 8th grade dance?  Not to fear, this was all the craze in the 50’s, as in 1850’s.  Jerry Thomas, the godfather of bartending, would be proud.  Staying true to Jerry Thomas and his era, I decided to scour the reprints of his books and others from that time.  I found a lot of punches with champagne or something else effervescent.  This would be great for a party where it would be consumed quickly before going flat.   This, however, is not one of those circumstances.  What we needed was something that would hold up for at least six hours and had ingredients that were not impossible to find.  Three options were explored: Brandy Punch, Newport Punch, and Victoria Punch.  Further research was done by making a reduced quantity version of each and comparing them against each other.  The three punches had bases of brandy, rum, or both in the case of Victoria Punch.  The contest to decide the best took two nights as the Victoria Punch required a 24 hour soak of equal parts rum and brandy in slices of lemon.  

My girlfriend chose the Newport Punch as that hit her palette just right.  Translation: saccharine.  My personal favorite was the Brandy Punch- not too sweet, actually a bit on the tart side.  To reproduce the reduced size batches, try the following:

Brandy Punch (Single serving)
1 Tbsp Raspberry Syrup
2 Tsp powdered sugar
2 oz water
3 oz brandy
1 medium sized lemon
2 orange slices
1 pineapple wedge
fresh berries

Place raspberry syrup, powdered sugar, water, brandy, juice of lemon, orange slices, and pineapple in shaker with ice.  Shake well and garnish with berries in season.

Newport Punch (1/12th full recipe)
4 oz sugar
4 oz cold water
1 lemon
1 lime
1 oz rum

Mix sugar, water, and juice from lemon well.  This is called sherbet.  These proportions should make about 5 oz of the stuff.  Mix it with rum.  I used Myers Dark Rum.  On rim of glass run quartered lime and squeeze the remainder in glass. 

Victoria Punch (1/12th full recipe)
½ lemon sliced
4-2/3 oz water
5-1/3 oz brandy
5-1/3 oz rum
1-1/3 oz milk
1-1/3 oz sugar

Steep the sliced lemon in rum and brandy over night.  Again, I used Myers Dark Rum for this.  Mix the remaining ingredients well and filter with a “jelly bag”.  I didn’t have a jelly bag so I used some paper towels made in to a cone filter.  A coffee filter would work great for this as well. The filter is needed as the milk curdles a bit. It’s noted that this can be served hot or cold.  I found it to be pretty stout and better cold than at least warm- not sure about hot. 


 We tweaked the final version of the Newport Punch as it was super sweet.  The actual amount we used turned out to be 4 lbs sugar, 26 lemons, 104 oz water, 26+ oz Myers Rum for good measure, and 6 limes making a little under two gallons.  This fit perfectly in the 5 dollar 2 ½ gallon cooler we got from the grocery store.

The end result was received well by the thirsty bachelorette party which in my book is a success!

These recipes are from American & Other Drinks: Cocktails, Punches and Fancy Drinks, 1878.  Reprinted editions can be found at multiple places.  I found mine from Vintage Cocktail Books ( and Amazon.

Mainly Maine

Maine Spirits

On a recent work trip up to Maine I had little free time but I managed to continue my search for the best lobster roll and get a better feel for the beverage culture in southern Maine.  I discovered a healthy craft beer and distilling scene.  The beer comes as no surprise given that Alagash, one of the big boys in the industry, hails from Portland.   What did come of surprise though was the variety of distilled spirits produced within the state.  Of the five distilleries discovered a range of spirits from potato vodkas (made with local potatoes and some infused with quintessential Maine products like cranberry and wild blueberry), to gins, rums, various brandies, and eau-de-vies. 

Several of these spirits have garnered top accolades and awards. 

In no particular order:

  • Cold River Classic Vodka
    Double Gold at San Francisco’s 2008 World Spirits Competition
  • Twenty 2 Vodka (Shown above)
    Gold at San Francisco’s 2010 World Spirits Competition
    Silver at San Francisco’s 2011 World Spirits Competition
  • Sweetgrass Farm Back River Gin
    Named one of top 50 spirits of 2008 – Wine Enthusiast
  • Bartlett Fine Apple Brandy (Shown above)
    Silver at San Francisco’s 2011 World Spirits Competition
  •  Bartlett Pear Eau-de-Vie
    Double Gold at San Francisco’s 2011 World Spirits Competition
  • Tree Spirits Knotted Maple
    Bronze at San Francisco’s 2011 World Spirits Competition

Other interesting products include:

Pure Vanilla Extract, Bitter Blueberry Aromatic Cocktail Bitters and Bitter Cranberry Aromatic Cocktail Bitters from Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery

Cold River Gin made with potatoes instead of the typical grain-based. 

Maine Distilleries, LLC 

Being resourceful New Englanders the distillers use what is available: in this case, potatoes.  All vodkas and gins have a base of potato.  This is smart, delicious, and economical.  Using what is local they retain a consistent provenance and flavor profile tied to their product.  The spirits produced from Maine Distilleries (Cold River) take this to a new level and grow their own potatoes as they say from “seed to spud” giving them a distinction of producing a spirit with all raw ingredients controlled by the distillery. Maine Distilleries also produce a vodka flavored with wild blueberries, but unlike most competitors, it is 80 proof ABV and also only contains 1% sugar- making the Cold River Wild Blueberry a better alternative than most other flavored vodkas for those watching their carbohydrate intake.   

Unfortunately for us, most of these products are only available within the state of Maine.  However, some of the products that have a smaller distribution footprint can be purchased online.  Cold River has by far the widest distribution stretching even to London, UK.  Whereas products like Bartlett’s Pear Eau-de-Vie is only available to those venturing to the state. 

For further reading please see the distillers websites:
Cold River –
Spirits of Maine Distillery –
Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery –
Tree Spirits –
Twenty 2 Vodka –