A Holiday Punch With 18th-Century Spirit: Recipe

Bartender-botanist Danny Childs concocts an apple cider punch inspired by revelers past.
A Holiday Punch With 18th-Century Spirit: Recipe
Serve in a punch bowl, garnish with lemon slices and grated nutmeg, and you’re set for an autumnal party. (Katie Childs)

Philadelphia Fish House Punch, invented by the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania, is one of the oldest alcoholic recipes in the United States. “Some people go as far as to say that it helped spark the Revolution, these Philadelphians imbibing their punch,” said Danny Childs.

Mr. Childs is an anthropologist and ethnobotanist turned foraging mixologist who, for the last nine years, has been managing the bar and beverage program for The Farmer and Fisherman Tavern in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He develops recipes with all manner of botanical infusions, shrubs, bitters, and fermentations, and he keeps two gardens: one at home in nearby Marlton for his family, and another behind the restaurant for drink ingredients such as wormwood, horehound, hops, and elder.

Danny Childs. (Katie Childs)
Danny Childs. (Katie Childs)

“A lot of what I do is with heirloom or regionally important ingredients,” he said, foods that are “really integral in the early agricultural history of our country.” One fall, Mr. Childs and his team set out to create their own take on the Colonial-era drink. The old recipe, as presented in David Wondrich’s book “Punch,” called for black tea and peach brandy. “We were like, ‘What do we have really abundant around us?’ Apple cider. We also had Laird’s Applejack, from America’s oldest distillery.” They swapped these in and put their name on it; the result became the restaurant’s number one seller.

In his new book, “Slow Drinks: A Field Guide to Foraging and Fermenting Seasonal Sodas, Botanical Cocktails, Homemade Wines, and More,” Mr. Childs suggests serving the punch with a sparkling addition of wild-fermented cider. For Mr. Childs’s homemade version, you’ll have to get the book.
“Slow Drinks” by Danny Childs (Hardie Grant, 2023).
“Slow Drinks” by Danny Childs (Hardie Grant, 2023).

The Farm and Fish House Punch

Makes 7 cups
  • 8 medium lemons, plus more if needed for 1 1/2 cup (360 milliliters) juice
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) demerara sugar (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 10 coriander seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups (590 milliliters) unfiltered and unsweetened apple cider
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 milliliters) Laird’s Applejack
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 milliliters) funky, ester-rich Jamaican rum (like Smith and Cross or Plantation Xaymaca)
  • Wild fermented cider, for serving (optional)
  • Grated nutmeg, for garnish
To make the oleo-saccharum, peel the lemons, being careful to stop short of peeling the white pith. Set the peeled lemons aside to juice later. Place the peels in a medium bowl along with demerara sugar. Grind the cinnamon, star anise, clove, and coriander in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add to the bowl along with the lemon peels and sugar. Mix well and muddle to release the oils from the peels. Cover the bowl with a towel or plate and let sit at room temperature overnight.

In the meantime, juice the peeled lemons (though you may need a few more), and refrigerate the juice in an airtight container.

The next day, use a silicone spatula to scrape the oleo-saccharum into a medium saucepan along with the lemon juice and gently heat until all the sugar dissolves. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl (this strained liquid is called a “sherbet”), being sure to squeeze as much liquid from the peels as possible (it should yield about 2 1/4 cups/530 milliliters). Discard the solids after straining.

Next, add the apple cider, Laird’s, and rum to the sherbet and stir well to combine. Congratulations, you’ve successfully made your punch! Transfer to airtight bottles or containers and refrigerate. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least a few months, but there’s no chance it won’t get consumed before then.

To serve the punch to a crowd, pour into a punch bowl over a large block of ice and add one 750-milliliter bottle wild fermented cider (optional). Garnish with grated nutmeg and lemon slices.

For an individual serving, pour 3 1/2 ounces in a rocks glass with a large ice cube and top with 1 ounce wild fermented cider (optional). Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Recipe excerpted with permission from “Slow Drinks” by Danny Childs, published by ‎Hardie Grant Publishing, October 2023.
Kevin Revolinski is an avid traveler, craft beer enthusiast, and home-cooking fan. He is the author of 15 books, including “The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey” and his new collection of short stories, “Stealing Away.” He’s based in Madison, Wis., and his website is TheMadTraveler.com
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