How often do you think about the Roman Empire? As gourmandes, it’s honestly never too far from our minds. Why? Because ancient civilizations had feasting down to a fine art. As the season of rambunctious repast has officially begun, we wanted to give a nod to our gluttonous forefathers as we offer up a sip to see you (and your esteemed pals) through the colder nights in style. Grab the scotch; it is truly time for the good stuff.
Do we dare cocktail with fine spirits? Yes sir, we do. While purists might declare it blasphemy to mix with single malts, the most esteemed drink connoisseurs will tell you that the art of a good blend was the reason for whisky’s invention. (Oh, and we have never been accused of inviting a purist to a party; we’re here for a good time, not a lecture!) Right now, we are truly enamoured with Glenfiddich’s Orchard Experiment, the fifth release in the scotch powerhouse’s Experimental Series. Think classic Glenfiddich, but finished in Somerset Pomona Spirit casks, allowing for a ripe burst if orchard fruits. This is the stuff of autumnal daydreams, and it provides the sweet backbone to this week’s cocktail.
We absolutely love a punch, especially as somewhat of a centrepiece and welcome drink for fall and winter holiday parties. The Stag’s Orchard Punch Bowl offers up rich flavours of a fine harvest, with the tantalising, tart apple cider and lemon lifting through the sweetness of the orange, ginger beer and deep, rich brown sugar. Amaro and whisky are a time-honoured pairing but the coupling has plenty of life in it beyond the Manhattan, as you will see from this swill. Fresh fruits and spices don’t just look pretty, the delicate placement of anise and cinnamon allow for an intricate flavour infusion, and booze soaked apples and oranges make for a delightful post-sip snack. Furthermore, punches provide colour and theatricality to a cocktail party; we recommend serving in your finest crystal punch bowl (with a smug smile, of course).
The conversations at cocktail parties is just as important as the sip you’re serving, so here’s a sumptuious little factoid to share over drinks (especially those insistent on discussing the latest TikTok trend): punch bowls date back to the Greek and Roman eras. Ancient civilizations are noted to have very much enjoyed imbibe-focused soirees and would commonly use clay bowls as receptacles for wine and other mixed beverages to serve at a banquet. Wise.
Did you think we were going to get through a drinks article without mentioning “the sailors”? Ho-ho, no. As we know, 17th Century sailors set trends for literally the rest of all time. While the Romans and Greeks may have set the stage for communal drinking, seafarers mixed alcohol, sugar, citrus, water and spices from the exotic lands they travelled to, thus generating something of a punch.
According to author of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, David Wondrich, the source of the mixed drink we know and love today was the British East India Company. Sailors used spices they picked up in India to mix with alcohol in large puncheon barrels. The practice became so popular it eventually made its way into the cups of aristocrats. Why? Because ingredients were exotic and costly, and punch wasn’t taxable, so, y’know…
The humble punch, like most drinks trends, has risen and fallen in popularity over the course of history. For a while it was the height of sophistication; the signing of the Declaration of Independence was reported to have been toasted with not one but 76 bowls of punch! However, as drinking culture burgeoned to the point of celebrating individual bartenders, drinkers wanted something to suit their individual tastes.
What goes around comes around and now, in our post ‘Rona society, we’re back to big batch and social sipping (which really is good news for hosts who no longer have to faff around with multiple drinks orders!). For the record, while we accept that fads come and fads go, we have categorically always been here for a punch. They’re just so fun. So, y’know, hail Caesar and happy feasting. This one is delicious!