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Book Review: Punch by David Wondrich

Posted on by Eric Burke

If you grew up in the Upper Midwest, like I did, you may have grown up thinking that punch was kool-aid and fruit juice mixed with lemon-lime soda. It’s what was served in every punch bowl I’d ever seen. Imagine my delight when I learned that punch had a much more grown-up origin.

I started reading this book because I love social gatherings, I love those gatherings to have interesting drinks and I love history. The idea of having a punch party intrigued me. After reading this book I felt certain that I needed to have that party. 

I have a theory that you can learn more about a people by studying what they do for leisure than you can by what they put down in their histories. Histories are full of kings and wars. Leisure for much of history revolved around booze. And along with that history of booze you get trade, society and yes even a bit of war. f that were all that were in this particular book, I would have been content. But I wouldn’t have shared it here. 

This book contains a lot of history, but fully two thirds of that is buried in the 44 recipes for that most social of drinks, Punch. The recipes are separated by ingredient, historical era and location. There are the Arrack Punches from the East India Company, Brandy and Rum Punches from England, Gin Punch, Milk Punch and Punches from the US that morphed into modern cocktails including the ones most intriguing to me, Whiskey Punch. You also get a bit of instruction on preparation and ingredients which is helpful since the original recipes span 400 or so years and at least three systems of measurement (two of which have the same names for differing amounts). And a bit of help sourcing the rarer implements and ingredients. 

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All in all this is a book sure to intrigue the history lover and it’s sure to provide at least one recipe that you’ll want to use at your next gathering of friends. I know I’ll be using at least one.