Xalapa Punch – David Embury

This is another simple but potent Punch (although not as powerful as Fish House) and is one employing tea. 

2 1/2 quarts strong Black Tea             (125ml)

1 pint Sugar Syrup                               (20ml)

Grated peel of 2 medium Lemons 

1 bottle Applejack                               (35ml)

1 bottle Gold Label Rum                     (35ml)

1 bottle Claret                                     (35ml)             

1 large Lemon, sliced very thin 

Pour the hot tea over the lemon peel and allow to stand ten to fifteen minutes. Add the sugar syrup and stir thoroughly. Cool add the liquors and claret, and let stand an hour of more to ripen. Pour over ice in Punch bowl and add lemon slices just before serving.

Xalapa is a city on to the east of Mexico, close to the Caribbean if not quite water’s edge. Its often called the city of flowers, and plays an important part in Mexican agriculture, producing large amounts of coffee and tobacco. Much more importantly it’s the origin of Jalapeno peppers, or Xalapeno’s.

The drink first pops up in Minnie Fox’s Blue Grass Cook Book in 1904, from deepest darkest Kentucky. In 1847 during the Mexican-American war the city of Xalapa was occupied by American forces, among which was a certain Ulysses S. Grant, who as a lieutenant was quite taken by Xalapa, calling it “decidedly the most beautiful place I ever saw in my life”. During the civil war some years later, Ulysses found himself in Kentucky fighting for the Union. I like to think that either himself, or a member of his retinue, came up with this punch and named it after that beautiful place he had been to earlier, and that its recipe became part of local culinary history, to find its way into Minnie’s cook book 45 years later as one of only 5 punches.

When making this drink, and for all punches I’ve built myself a calculator to shrink down the proportions (on the right above) so I can make punch for 1. I put this together at the beginning of a Saturday night shift so it would have time to stand, cool, and infuse during service. The tea I let stand for only 5-6 minutes so it wouldn’t have too many tannin’s, and the result was delicious. As with most punches it starts OK, but soon becomes stupidly moreish, and didn’t last long. The tea and the red wine work really well with the applejack. We currently have this drink on our A-Z list in the Chelsea Prayer Room, there aren’t too many drinks beginning with the letter ‘x’, our version is going to get some work over the next few days.