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22 Sep
Thu / 2011

The 18th-Century Imbiber

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Next Thursday evening Rienzi, in partnership with CultureMap, is celebrating English Taste with a “punch party.” While this may bring visions of childhood favorites like Hi-C and lunchtime juice boxes, we are in fact taking a slightly more sophisticated and adult-like approach for this celebration, using eighteenth-century punch recipes.

What exactly is eighteenth-century punch? Generally, it is described as a blend of spirits, citrus, sugar, and spices. The drink became popular during the eighteenth century, when trade routes were established, creating relatively widespread European access to things like sugar, citrus, and spices – all were previously extremely rare and precious. Eighteenth-century punch is a precursor to the modern notion of a cocktail, and like the modern cocktail, there are many different versions. Many are found in period texts and have been subject to historical study in texts like Eat, Drink, and Be Merry by Ivan Day,  the British food historian who co-curated our current exhibition, and Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wonderich.

Here are two excerpts from The Cook and Confectioner’s Dictionary, by John Nott from 1723:

To make Punch-Royal.

Take three Pints of the best Brandy, as much Spring-water, a Pint or better of the best Lime-juice, a Pound of double refin’d Sugar. This Punch is better than weaker Punch, for it does not so easily affect the Head, by reason of the large Quantity of Lime-juice more than common, and it is more grateful and comfortable to the Stomach.

Punch for Chamber-maids.

Take a Quart of Water, a quarter of a Pint of Lime-juice; squeeze in also the Juice of a Sevil Orange and a Lemon; put in six Ounces of fine Sugar; strain all through a Strainer, three times till it is very clear; then put in a Pint of Brandy, and half a Pint of White-wine.

Rienzi’s upcoming event will feature some of old recipes like those above, as well as some modern twists created by 13 Celsius. If you’re interested in joining us for this merry evening for punch, light bites, and music by Divisi Strings' quartet AMP'D, call 713.639.7800. Cheers!

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About Casey Monahan

Casey Monahan

Casey Monahan joined Rienzi as education assistant in 2010. She received her B.A. in art history and history from the College of the Holy Cross, and her M.A. in art history from the University of Houston. At Rienzi, the Massachusetts native works with docents, tours, and other public programs. 

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