Punches have made a big come back in the last few years within the craft cocktail movement. These punches are not like the ones you may have saw your father and mother put together pouring various liquors in a punch bowl with some fruit and having guests flinch at every sip until they had so much of it didn’t matter after a while.
A lot of recipes can be found in the Book Punch by David Wondrich. I once attended a punch crawl in Hollywood and visited four bars that had some great tasting concoctions made up by skilled bartenders. If your not sure about where to get some great tasting punches I suggest starting with the book Punch by David Wondrich and try the Charles Dickens punch which is a warm punch and is actually lit on fire at one point in order to caramelize the lemons.
Dickens is a noted writer as well as connoisseur of punches and even mentions them in his books, especially in The Pickwick Papers. One of his recipes was later named after him in a letter he wrote to a Mrs. F ( Ameilia F. Austin Fillonau) in 1847. I tried this when I had a cold and it really helped me to feel better.
Recipe for 8 cups of punch:
Rinds of 3 lemons cut very thin (as little of the white pith on them as possible)
Juice of 3 lemons (the ones you took the rinds off of)
6 oz sugar (demerara preferable, but any will do)
16 oz medium bodied rum
10 oz cognac
40 oz boiling water
Add the lemon rinds, sugar, rum and cognac to a medium size pot. Place pot on the stove and heat the mixture over low heat until warm, then turn off the burner. Take a tablespoon full of the alcohol from the pot and light it. If the alcohol is warm enough this should be easy, if too cool then it will take a few tries. Once the spoon is lit, transfer it to the pot setting the mixture on fire. This may take a few tries (it did for me). Don’t worry, the mixture won’t explode – it should burn with a low blueish flame. Leave the mixture lit for at least 4 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it heats evenly. Extinguish the flame by putting the lid on the pot. Pour in the lemon juice and boiling water and stir well. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir again before serving. If the punch is still not sweet enough to your liking, add more sugar slowly so as not to over sweeten. Keep the mixture warm throughout the evening over a low flame. If planning on letting it simmer for a few hours, as during a dinner party, then remove half the lemon rinds before letting it simmer. The rinds will start to make the punch bitter over time. The remaining punch (if there is any) may be stored in the refrigerator and served over ice.