Drinking Like a Fish with Punch and Cocktails

The use of fish as a decorative feature on a punch bowl is not, at first, an obvious choice. Although sometimes drunk with anchovy toasts, salmon, fried whitebait or oysters (in Britain at least), this does not seem to be the reason for fish decorations.

Instead, it appears that the use of fish decorations on British punch bowls was associated with alcohol and the imagery of being as drunk as a fish.

wincanton fish punch bowl

London, Bristol or Wincanton delft blue and manganese punch bowl c. 1750

The expression ‘to drink like a fish’ has long been popular in Britain to indicate drinking a large amount of alcohol. It was first recorded in 1640, appearing in Fletcher and Shirley’s stage comedy The night-walker, or the little theife: ‘Give me the bottle, I can drink like a Fish now, like an Elephant.’ In William Congreve’s 1700 play The Way of the World, he  says ‘Thou art both as drunk and as mute as a fish.’

Bristol ware fish punch bowl circa 1730-40

nest of fish punch bowls

Delftware with a plain manganese exterior with fish

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French Governor – A new Classic Cocktail?

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Omer Gazit-Shalev of Bar 223 adding the final ingredient, champagne, to the French Governor cocktail

Last week I was invited to meet Omer Gazit-Shalev manager of Bar 223 in Tel-Aviv, creator of a new cocktail, French Governor, winner of the first national round of the Bacardi Legacy Competition.

This competition seeks creation of an original cocktail with an interesting background story, an appealing drink with the potential to become a classic cocktail. And of course the usual flair preparing and presenting the cocktail. As this competition is sponsored by Bacardi, the main requirement is that the cocktail include one of two staple bar ingredients: Bacardi Superior rum (white) or Bacardi Carta Oro rum (golden).

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Robert Burns and Punch

This Sunday, 25th January 2015, will be Burn’s Night or Burn’s Supper, when Scots around the world celebrate the life and works of their national poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). This year it falls on his actual birthday, but otherwise takes place on the nearest Sunday. Traditionally a haggis is piped in with the bagpipes, whisky is drunk and Burns’s poems recited.

Around 1780, there were about eight legal distilleries and 400 illegal ones. In 1823, Parliament introduced an Excise Act designed to encourage the licensed distilleries and ease out the hundreds of small illegal operations. Technology improved whisky production with the introduction of the column still in 1831. This was a less expensive method of production and made for a smoother, and more commercially attractive drink. Punch, or toddy, made with whisky, hot water or tea, honey or sugar, and sometimes lemon, was a popular form of drinking whisky. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Greetings and Punch

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There are few references to punch served at Thanksgiving. In 1970 and 1971 the following recipe for Thanksgiving Punch appeared in both Life Magazine and New York Magazine. The inclusion of cranberry juice would certainly have given the punch the red colour seen in this card from 1907.

Thanksgiving Punch

Mix together in a punch bow ½ cup (4oz) lemon juice, ¼ cup (2 oz) sugar, 1 cup (8oz) each of cranberry juice, orange juice and strong tea. Then add 1 ‘fifth’ bottle (25.6 oz) of white Puerto Rican Rum and a dozen cloves. Introduce ice cubes to chill the punch. Decorate with thin lemon slices. (Serves 15)

Punch at the Boutique Bar Show, London, 16 September 2014

Trying out a range of rums, brandies and whiskies at a trade show is a great opportunity for me to try out new flavours, learn more and give an added dimension to what could be a potentially ‘dry’ historic study of the world of punch. Luckily, I was in London on the first day of the Boutique Bar Show. Organised by Andrew Scutts, the show is relatively small, with 38 stands, aiming at promoting new and high quality drinks brands to the UK drinks industry through tastings, talks and classes on current trends, production methods and styls, as well as hosting a trade show with producers and suppliers of drinks and bar equipment. It appeals to all those working in bars, restaurants and anywhere where quality drinks are served. This was the 7th year the show was run, held at the Camden Centre, an art-deco building dating back to 1937, opposite the newly renovated St Pancras International station (views of the show below).

boutique bar show 3boutique bar show 4boutique bar show 1

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