Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Philadelphia Fish House Punch

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
A party in a glass – from 1732

Need a cooling, cheering summer refresher? Something you can make in quantity for a crowd? Or just by the glass for yourself and friends?

Punch to the rescue! Philadelphia Fish House Punch was one of America’s earliest “mixed drinks.” Several founding fathers drank it. Who knew they were such party animals?

Take that, George III. 

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
Recipe: Philadelphia Fish House Punch

Punch combines alcohol (particularly spirits) and fruit. It arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. Perhaps the most famous colonial-era punch was the one we feature today.

The Philadelphia Fish House Punch originated with a gentlemen’s club that called itself (for some reason) the State in Schuylkill Fishing Company – or, before independence, the Colony in Schuylkill. The members eventually built a clubhouse that they named The Castle. But most people just called it the Fish House.
 
The club worthies created a punch from rum, cognac, lemons, and peach brandy – but they kept the original recipe secret. Today, there are several recipes that purport to be the real deal. We favor the one championed by cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich.

Originally, the punch was made in a bowl large enough to use as a baptismal font (for which it was actually purposed). We don’t need a batch that big, so we favor a single-serving recipe. But if you’re serving a crowd, we include a recipe for the full-sized version in the Notes.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces aged Jamaican rum (we favor amber, but dark works too; see Notes)
  • 1 ounce cognac or brandy
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoons simple syrup (to taste; see Notes)
  • ~½ to 1 teaspoon peach brandy (see Notes)
  • ~1 ounce sparkling water
  • garnish of lemon slice or twist (optional)

Procedure 

  1. Add all ingredients (except sparkling water and optional garnish) to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are well chilled (20 seconds or so).
  2. Strain into a rocks (old-fashioned) glass filled with ice. Top off with sparkling water, add garnish if desired, and serve.

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
Notes

  • Want to make this for a crowd? Add 1½ cups sugar to a punch bowl. Add enough water to dissolve it (a quart or two). Add 1 quart lemon juice, 2 quarts aged Jamaican rum, 1 quart cognac or brandy, and 4 ounces peach brandy. Stir thoroughly to mix. Add a big block of ice to chill the punch.
  • These days, it’s difficult to buy the type of peach brandy that was available in the 18th century. What you’re likely to find today is sweeter – it’s more liqueur than actual brandy. So we suggest adding ½ teaspoon to start, then adding more if necessary (you’re looking for just a hint of peach flavor; if you add too much of a modern peach “brandy,” its flavor will overpower the drink).
  • Because the peach brandy you’ll be adding will probably be sweet, be careful with how much simple syrup you use – you don’t want to make this drink too sweet (unless, of course, you like sweet drinks).
  • Some drinkers substitute pear or apple brandy for peach. We haven’t tried this, but you may wish to.
  • Originally, this drink would have been made with still water (probably boiling, to make it easier to dissolve the sugar). But in a single-serving version, we like the addition of bubbles. So we use sparkling water.
  • Some recipes for this punch replace part of the water with black tea.
  • We’ve made this punch with both amber and dark Jamaican rum. We think it looks (and drinks) best when made with an aged amber rum. But dark rum has its charms too, so feel free to experiment. BTW, some “dark” rums actually look more like amber rum. 
  • For this drink, it’s best to use an amber rum with deep, somewhat complex flavor (but one that’s not too funky). Appleton Estate Signature Blend Jamaica Rum or (better yet) their 8-Year-Old Reserve would work well. If you want something darker, Myers’s dark rum is a good choice.
  • Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial and are not compensated for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we like and buy with our own money.
  • The East India Company imported the concept of (and the word for) “punch” from India in the 17th century. We discuss the history of punch at length in our post on the Bombay Presidency Punch.

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
Pulling No Punches

“Tasty!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, holding out her glass for a refill.

“I’m pleased as punch that you like this,” I said, mixing another round.

“But we better be careful,” said Mrs K R. “I hear that George Washington once overindulged on this punch and was out of commission for three days.”

“Wow, dangerous,” I said. “He could have mislaid his false teeth.”

“He supposedly succumbed after offering a separate toast for each of the 13 colonies,” said Mrs K R.

Yeah, that would have been a knockout punch.

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50 comments:

Angie's Recipes said...

As always, very beautiful and I bet it's very tasty. Rum-based cocktails are just perfect for the summer.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Angie, this has a ton of flavor -- really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

John, one of the things I always enjoy about your drink recipes is the history lesson. This one is particularly historical! Also sounds delicious and refreshing. Thanks!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Terry, it's the history of drinks that got us interested in cocktails. Came for the history, stayed for their good looks and flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Lydia from Lydia's Flexitarian Kitchen said...

This sounds delicious! I believe we have the ingredients to make a pitcher (or two).

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Lydia, you'll love this -- really good stuff. :-) Enjoy! And thanks for the comment.

savorthebest said...

This is perfectly refreshing for the summer. Looks great.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Dahn, it's exceptionally tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Mae Travels said...

The amounts of booze in the full-size version are mind-boggling. Did you say how many servings that made? I think I'd like this one.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Mae, that's one serving, although it's meant to take awhile to sip. But you could easily serve this to two -- that's what we often (although not always) do. Thanks for the comment.

Anne in the kitchen said...

Sounds wonderful! Hats off to the founding fathers for this!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Anne, it really is wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Fran @ G'day Souffle said...

This sounds like my kind of cocktail- lots of rum and fruit- but dangerous, though. This drink will go down so easily that in no time, you'll feel as "pleased as pinch!" Several of my direct ancestors from the 18th century would have enjoyed this drink- Christopher von Schlegel (arrived in the Colonies in 1700 and his son, Jacob, born 1723). If I could only ask them!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Fran, you owe it to your ancestors to make a round of these. :-) Thanks for the comment.

G'day Souffle said...

Oops- I meant to say "Pleased as punch"! (not pinch).

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Fran, I figured that! :-)

Ben | Havocinthekitchen said...

Despite its peculiar name (I was a bit concerned there was fish involved lol), this is a delightful cocktail with a complex yet fresh flavour. Loving it!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Ben, yeah, the name is definitely unusual, at least to modern ears. But great flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Summer is the perfect time to test out new cocktails and you always have wonderful suggestions! Looks like a winner!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Liz, we definitely do drink more cocktails at this time of the year. :-) Thanks for the comment.

mjskit said...

This is a keeper. Anything with peach and I'm all in. That also goes for Jamaican run. I love this punch. Thanks John.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi MJ, it's got feisty flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

savorthebest said...

It sounds terrific for summer.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Dahn, it is, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Eha said...

The name for some reason rings a bell tho' P am certain not to have had the chance to indulge . . . love the story also. Seems to me one has to be pretty careful . . . a lot of alcohol innocently poured :) ! Don't keep peach brandy . . . I suppose Calvados would be too much the wrong fruit . . . :) !!!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Eha, I think Calvados would be pretty good. Wrong fruit, yes, but its nose is so attractive that I think it'd be a pretty good alternative to the peach brandy. And yeah, this definitely is a lot of booze -- one wants to take be careful with this one. Thanks for the comment.

David Scott Allen said...

Being from Philadelphia, you might assume I’d heard of this — but, no! It’s new to me and I definitely want to try it! Wondering, as it is peach season here, if infusing some brandy with peach slices might do the trick? What do you think, John?

Judy@SavoringToday said...

Mmm, peach brandy! I'll have to sip on this while I wait for peaches to ripen here in CO — what a delicious summer drink. :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi David, I think infusing brandy with peaches is an excellent idea! Next time we make this we're going to use peach bitters -- I think that be an interesting twist. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Judy, this really is a nice summer drink -- a slow sipper. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Family Spice said...

Oh yes! This is my kind of drink - rum and juice. You have another winner!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Laura, we LOVE rum drinks. Particularly in summer. And particularly with fresh fruit juice. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Healthy World Cuisine said...

That combination sounds delicious! Perfect summertime sipper.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Bobbi, it's really good stuff -- terrific flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Happy Retiree's Kitchen said...

As I read this, it's 8 degrees here so I'm opting for a hot cup of tea, LOL, but later in the day I would love to try your cocktail.All your American cocktails have such an interesting history, and I still have my original punch bowl and cups from the 80's. A great party favourite, thanks East India Company. Best Pauline.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Pauline, we have a punch bowl too, somewhere. :-) Great for parties! Thanks for the comment.

Sherry's Pickings said...

this sounds fantastic John. I bet it's a knockout. love your photos! We have a couple of popular rum distilleries around here so either would go down well. Cheers!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Sherry, ah, thanks, for that very kind comment. :-)

Jeff the Chef said...

I have a feeling I'd really love this. Thanks for the recipe!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Jeff, it's good -- bet you would like it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Found this exceptionally interesting since I live right outside of Philadelphia and never heard of the Fish House or the drink. Looks wonderful and I love your photo with the cashews!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Judee, Philly as a lot of history! It's a good city, and this is a wonderful drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Food Gal said...

I can't say that with "fish'' in the title that this drink has the most appetizing name. LOL But it sure is pretty looking. And I bet it really hits the spot when the weather is warm.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Carolyn, yeah the name is a bit odd. But the drink is good! :-) Thanks for the comment.

Dawn @ Words Of Deliciousness said...

Sounds like the perfect summer drink. I love the name of this one.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Dawn, isn't this nice? Terrific flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.

lisa is cooking said...

Yes, I do need a cooling, summer refresher! This would do quite nicely. Lemon and peach sounds delicious.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Lisa, it's been a hot summer, hasn't it? This really is a great way to cool off. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Raymund said...

Definitely a nice summer cooler!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Raymund, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.