Punch, the drink of pirates and presidents over the last four centuries, has been undergoing something of a renaissance in recent years. Bartenders began to treat the humble punch bowl as carefully as craft cocktails, using quality alcohol and freshly squeezed juices, and convivially preparing communal drinks at bars or house parties.
Washington was on the edge of this curve, thanks in part to Room 11 partner/bartender Dan Searing, who held a weekly soiree called Punch Club back in 2009. Earlier this month, Searing published his first book, “The Punch Bowl,” a compilation of 25 original recipes and 50 classic punches, and he’s hosting the first launch party at the Passenger from 6 to 8 tonight. Guests can sample a brand-new drink called “Horse and Carriage Punch,” ask questions about punch recipes and punchmaking, and buy a copy of the book.
“Punch is such a naturally hospitable drink,” says Searing. A bowl of punch set out at a party is an expression of welcome, and an easy way to start guests mingling: They grab a glass, and greet others while serving themselves. Punch is less about one-on-one interaction with a bartender, and more about interacting with friends. “You need a group of people together, with everyone gathered around the bowl,” Searing says. “It’s a populist kind of drink.”
Searing’s book has contributions from a number of locals, including Derek Brown (The Columbia Room), Gina Cheservani (PS 7’s), Adam Bernbach (Proof) and Owen Thompson (Cafe Atlantico). Searing also reached out to national and international mixologists, including English bartender Simon Ford and San Francisco’s Bon Vivants, a duo that created cocktail menus for some of the Left Coast’s better bars.
For tonight’s event, Searing will be whipping up a few bowls of Simon Ford’s Horse and Carriage Punch, which he says is “perfect for this time of year.”
“It’s simple but original, and seasonally appropriate -- it has the floral properties of the chamomile tea with the gin and St. Germain.” (See the recipe below.)
Can’t make it tonight? Searing will be hosting two other release parties in coming weeks, whipping up punch at Jackie’s Sidebar from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 7 and signing books (and serving non-alcoholic punch) at the Alexandria barware shop the Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. on June 21.
There will also be a punch party at Room 11 later this summer, but no date has been set yet.
Horse and Carriage Punch
Created by Simon Ford
Makes 20 to 30 servings
5 oranges, peeled; peels sliced into thin strips
5 lemons, peeled; peels sliced into thin strips
1 cup fine white sugar
1 750mL bottle Plymouth Gin
2 1/2 cups St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
3 1/8 cups chamomile tea
1 2/3 lemon juice (about 10 lemons)
3/4 cup blood orange liqueur (substitute orange liqueur)
1/3 cup Golden Honey Syrup (recipe follows)
1 750mL bottle Perrier-Jouet Champagne
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1. In a punch bowl, muddle the orange and lemon peels with the sugar. Add the next six ingredients, stirring to combine.
2. Add ice cubes, and top the punch with chilled champagne. Garnish with orange and lemon slices and elderberries, if using.
Golden Honey Punch
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup honey
1. Combine water and honey in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the honey is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Cool completely before using or storing in a refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass jar, where it will keep for 2 to 4 weeks.