I’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.
I have a bottle of peach Nalewka Babuni, a fortified Polish fruit wine (18% ABV), which I found sitting—very dusty—on the “meads and other unpopular wines” shelf at one of my favorite local grocers. For some reason it beckoned to me. Probably because it was $8.50 and has a name that might be fun to pronounce.
Nalewka Babuni is pretty awful taken neat at room temperature, which is apparently the traditional way of consuming it. Traditional practices are important to keep in mind, here, because the label describes it as a:
Refined, old Polish liquor, present in all the 19th century houses of noblemen. The recipe handed down by noble grandmas has remained unchanged to the present day, lending a glamour to family meetings.
I’d venture that the unchanged recipe of those noble Polish grandmas must’ve been pretty forward-thinking in its day, because the label goes on to note that Peach Nalewka Babuni Wine Specialty is made of grape white wine, molasses neutral spirits, artificial peach type flavor and caramel coloring. I had naïvely thought that 19th century noble grandmas would have produced their peach wines from actual peaches, but that just goes to show how little I know of Eastern European oenological traditions.
Nalewka Babuni is a product of Vinpol, whose product page translates it as “Grandma’s Liquor” for the English-speaking audience. For the record, my grandma’s liquor was Old Crow, but she wasn’t Polish.
Artificially flavored and colored though it may be, this stuff’s not a complete write-off. I’m actually half-enjoying a 3:1 martini made with Nalewka Babuni in lieu of vermouth (and a generous helping of orange bitters). I wouldn’t recommend that anyone run out and buy a case, but it may prove to have its uses. Ah, novelty.
(For a Party of Eight)
Into a Punch bowl pour:
2½ jiggers Lemon Juice.
4 jiggers Peach Brandy.
2 jiggers Cognac Brandy.
2 jiggers Jamaica Rum.
3 pints Ice Water.
Stir well; ladle into Punch glass and serve.
Fill large Bar glass ½ full Shaved Ice.
1 jigger New England Rum.
1 jigger Vermouth.
3 dashes Gum Syrup.
1 dash Orange Bitters.
½ juice of a Lemon
Stir and serve with a Preserved Peach and its liquor.
(For a Party of 20)
For mixing use a large Punch bowl.
½ can Peaches.
½ can Pineapples.
3 Oranges, sliced.
3 Lemons, sliced.
3 quarts Sweet Catawba or Tokay.
1 pint Brandy.
1½ jiggers Jamaica Rum.
1 jigger Green Chartreuse.
Set this mixture aside in ice box for 6 hours. Then place block of Ice in another bowl of sufficient capacity and strain in the mixture from the Mixing bowl. Dress the Ice with Fruit and serve with a Ladle into Punch glasses.