Fish House Punch

A riparian sceneI’ve just sloshed together a batch of Fish House Punch in preparation for a friend’s party tomorrow evening — it’s the first recipe I’ve made that has occasioned the use of a 3-gallon carboy as a shaker. This most venerable of American flowing bowls is held to have been first concocted in 1732 at Philadelphia’s fishing club, The Colony in Schuylkill* … there are variations to the recipe depending on what source you consult, but they’re mostly pretty minor. In the main, it seems that Fish House Punch is so revered that most know better than to tinker with its sacred formula. Sadly, in using a peach schnapps I depart from the norm — strictly speaking, peach brandy is called for — but unfortunately the State of Oregon doesn’t see fit to sell any peach brandies that aren’t wholly artificially flavored. I hope the founding grandfathers will forgive a transgression in the interest of verity over verisimilitude.

25 oz. Jamaican rum
25 oz. gold rum
25 oz. cognac
24 oz. lemon juice
8 oz. peach schnapps
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 1/2 pints water

mix sugar, water and lemon juice until dissolved, add liquor, stir well and allow to stand for several hours before serving, poured over a large block of ice.

Though the requisite several hours of flavor-blending has yet to pass, I couldn’t resist a sample or two. It’s good. It’s strong. It’s the kind of punch that can get you into trouble. It’s terribly, deceptively delicious. Several apocryphal stories attribute gaps in George Washington’s journals to overindulgence in Fish House Punch… I wonder if there are places claiming that “Washington Slepte It Offe Here.”

*In 1732 the club was known as “The Colony in Schuylkill,” but it changed its name to “The State in Schuylkill” in 1783, in keeping with events of the day. Also known as The Schuylkill Fishing Company, it was a quirky sporting gentleman’s affair, claiming sovereignty unto itself. Each of its 25 members had a faux governmental title and whatnot… I believe the club continues to this day, though so far I can only find evidence up through 1981.

7 thoughts on “Fish House Punch”

  1. I have polite friends, to be sure, but I think the Fish House Punch was a crowd-pleaser. I certainly enjoyed it, and an empty punchbowl must mean something. Decidedly more popular than the undocumented alternative I brought: Trader Vic’s Temperance Punch #2. The latter was tasty in and of itself, but much remained at the end of the evening. In addition to being polite, mine can be an intemperate crowd.

    Extra e’s appended to a few words at Zabboe’s suggestione.

  2. Excellent news! I’m heartened that such a pedigreed institution hasn’t fallen to the vicissitudes of the millennium. I dare say the old coves keep a low profile… newspapers and the internets seem remarkably silent on the club’s activities of the past few decades. I lack access to the Inquirer and Daily News archives prior to ’97, however, so perhaps I’m missing local murmurs.

    That 1981 reference I mentioned was an entry in the Society for Historical Archaeology’s bibliography, for a salvage archaeology report delivered to the club, so I’m guessing the burning-down of the building took place in 1980/81.

  3. In the late 70’s I worked for the caretaker and was sometimes employed to help doing dishes and other chores when the State in Schuylkil met on Washington’s birthday. The members were always very nice. I was sorry when the mansion burned down, it held a lot of artifax that cannot be replaced.

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