Fish House Punch – Recipe below from Jerry Thomas’ ‘The Bon Vivants Companion’

From a recipe in the possession of Charles G Leland, Esq. An American author whose fame rests chiefly on the Hans Breitman Ballads. He was chief editor of The Illustrated New in New York for many years before the civil war, and wrote many books. He also contributed to Graham’s Magazine, which published much of Edgar Allan Poe’s work.

One-third pint of lemon juice

Three-quarters pound of white sugar

One pint of mixture composed of one-fourth pint of peach brandy, one half pint of Cognac brandy, and one-fourth pint of Jamaica rum.

Two and one-half pints of cold water.

The above is generally sufficient for one person

I would love to be able to ask the most obvious question of Mr Thomas.

Generally sufficient for what?

That’s a pint of liquor, which is anywhere from 10-12 double gin and tonics (for a rough unit of measure) or 24 units of alcohol, so based on todays medical recommendations it’s generally sufficient as you weekly recommended intake of alcohol if you’re a large fit man, or a bartender.

This is the Roll’s Royce of punches, easily the most famous, it crops up in Embury as well, with an almost identical recipe. The ‘Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania’ where this drink comes from is the oldest continuously operating social club in the English-speaking world and has been running fishing trips loaded with cigars and punch since 1732.

One of its more famous past members, a certain George Washington apparently drank so much on a visit that he was unable to put pen to paper for a journal entry for three days after the visit. Credit to him, it didn’t scare him off the club, or punch.

Various versions of the recipe come with different instructions for its creation, one of the older one’s states that instead of actual water you put a large block of ice in the mixture and put a tight lid on top, and get started early in the morning. Every so often you need to check on it, spoon the punch over the ice cube, and my favourite bit “It is most proper to sample the batch each time it is mixed, to monitor the manner in which the materials are melding together”

Charles Godfrey Leland Esq. rose to prominence due to the Breitman Ballads, a series of ballads about the big American-German and his Forest Gump like ability to spring into American history, wading through the civil war while singing and drinking a LOT of beer, its all written Irvine Walsh like in a strange phonetic 1800’s English / German style, which is tough reading today, his later works were all on a combination of weird witchcraft, gypsy lore and other fantastical subjects, and he was known for bending facts into a good yarn. He would be awesome dinner party company, and I like to think he propped up more than one of Jerry’s bars while sharing his wisdom and recipes.

The drink itself, found its way onto a bar menu in Soho I was visiting over Easter, so I couldn’t resist, when I bought my fist copy of Embury there was a small scrap of paper with the fish house punch recipe scribbled on, it took me a while to work out what the recipe was, and I tried it before matching it. I’ve always found the drink charming, for what is essentially a booze heavy sour recipe if made short.

Fish House Punch

There’s a little place just out of town,
Where, if you go to lunch,
They’ll make you forget your mother-in-law
With a drink called Fish-House Punch.

The Cook (1885)