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To Make a Classic Cocktail Punch Session #2 by cdbakunas
December 28, 2010, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Making Cocktails | Tags: , , ,

We powered through another session of cocktails. This was day two of making more classic punches from David Wondrich’s wonderful book Imbibe.

I will list all the cocktail recipes on the next blog post, but let me start by saying that reading about cocktails and making them are two entirely different things. I know that sounds elementary, but until you roll up those sleeves and get into classic cocktails you have no idea what a head wind you are fighting. Case in point: I live in Chicago, a major metropolitan city with access to most all things your little mind desires, but finding ingredients like gum syrup, prove next to impossible. Ya, ya, I could order it online but I’m really not that organized. Just getting all the ingredients together the day before we make these cocktails is an ordeal enough. And the looks my wife already gives me as I’ve got three pots reducing on our stove all evening for simple syrup, fruit reductions and fruit syrups is enough to make me drink straight whiskey, forget the cocktails…I need to get to 30,000 feet cruising altitude asap!

We started with Pisco Punch. I’ve heard a lot about this little punch. Pisco this, pisco that and it seems to be the powerful rage in certain circles, or at least people think they like it. Maybe because Pisco is so darn fun to say and you can keep on saying it as you over serve yourself.  It simply falls from your slightly pursed lips like drops of oil from your fried eggs. Wondrich writes about how Pisco Punch was such the rage in San Francisco that nearly every bar in the 1920’s had their own version. The reputed original was made by a Scottish barman, Duncan Nicol, proprietor of the historic Bank Exchange saloon (Exchange, what a great name for a bar). Pisco liquor is a type of grape brandy that was created in Peru dating back to the 16th century when Spanish explorers began planting grapes in the fertile south coast of Peru. Piscos were the names of the potters who threw clay containers used in all sorts of fermentations, including the epynomous Pisco Puro.

This punch seemed to me to be the most captivating. Again, it requires a bit of work in advance so you have to have great determination, patience and diligence to do this right. I have none of these saint like qualities and no wonder our Pisco Punch didn’t make it as the stand out punch this afternoon. 24 hours in advance you need to make a pineapple syrup with the use of gum syrup. So I don’t have gum syrup and I was told by a few mixologist friends of mine that I could substitute a reduced simple syrup and that should suffice. I didn’t soak the pineapple for quite long enough (does 15 minutes count?). Other than that we gave it a solid effort. The punch was good, not great.

Next we made a cold whiskey punch and a gin punch followed by a vanilla punch. In retrospect I should have made the vanilla punch the same day that I made the variations of the classic Brandy punch. They are so darn similar it was like taking a small half step the other way we would’ve been there. Vanilla punch, good, but not great, and probably the day’s most boring cocktail. No fault to the vanilla punch, it just left all of us wanting a little more.

The Cold Whiskey Punch was great. The original recipe calls for 3 oz of Red Top Rye whiskey. Right. That doesn’t exist anymore and Wondrich this time was kind enough to say we could just use Rye Whiskey. Well, I happened to have a bottle of 18 year old Sazerac Rye and we couldn’t decide if this punch was rocking delicious on its own merit or if it was because the Rye we used was fucking amazing. Maybe a little bit of both.

But the Gin Punch took the crowd by surprise this day. It was dynamite. Let me reiterate, dynamite. It’s like aromatic gin was made for punch and fresh fruit combinations. The raspberry syrup combined with the powdered white sugar made a sexy, feminine pink hue that said, “oh wow, that’s really pretty,” and the citrus of lemon, orange and pineapple gave a lift to this punch that the others just didn’t have. The citrus melted seamlessly with the herbal aromatics of our Small’s Gin and each sip was balanced, complex and extremely refreshing.

A successful day after dealing with a few irritations like pineapple syrup and gum (gomme) syrup. I will try the Pisco Punch again when I’m more organized and when I find a source for gum syrup. I do really want to compare gum syrup to simple syrup and taste/experience their unique qualities for myself.

Recipes to be posted next.

Sante!

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2 Comments so far
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