Recently, I was seated at the bar at the Zig Zag with my dear friend Angela trying to shake off the effects of the work day. After the merest glance at the current menu, I picked some familiar classic that I am sure was wonderful, though I can't say I recall what it was. Angela calmly perused the new options before opting for the Bohannon, a cocktail originally created by Casey Keenan at Deep Ellum in Boston. As I watched Murray put together the three ingredients, I couldn't wait to taste Angela's cocktail. I hate it when that happens. Since then, I have been on a part-time mission to make this drink at home. Usually, at worst, this requires a trip to the liquor store, but one of the ingredients is not readily available in the United States: Swedish punsch. Fortunately, a simple Internet search provided me with a do-it-yourself recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Underhill-Lounge. I love home booze projects, so this was a win-win situation.
So what is Swedish punsch? Swedish punsch came about from efforts to make Batavia Arrack more palatable, and it became a bottled version of a popular drink from the 1700s, namely, Arak punch. And the follow-up question becomes, what is Batavia Arrack and then, what is Arak punch? Babushka nesting dolls anyone? Okay the summary: Batavia Arrack is a type of spirit made in Indonesia that is distilled from sugar cane. What makes it so different from "rum" is that the fermentation of the wash is started with fermented red rice in addition to local yeasts, which combine to impart unique flavors and aromas to the finished product. Arrack was very popular starting in the early eighteenth century when the Dutch East Indies Company introduced it to Europe. Its particular funky, fiery nature induced many to temper it with spices, citrus, or even other spirits--hello punch. It can stand up to pretty much anything, and as a punch ingredient this is ideal. As punch found a greater following, Arrack punch, complete with its signature flavor profile, filled many a flowing bowl. The primary ingredients consisted of Arrack, rum, lime juice, sugar, and water with a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg. As with all punches, though, of course, there was a great deal of leeway with the recipe. Swedish punsch is a variation of this popular libation in bottled form. It was originally created in Sweden in the mid-eighteenth century and is still popular in many Scandinavian countries. Swedish punsch, or caloric punsch, also found its way into several classic cocktail recipes, notably the Diki-Diki and the Biffy, both from Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book.
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Underhill punsch
1/2 ounce green chartreuse
Shake in an ice-filled shaker. Garnish with a pinch of black pepper.
Notes on Ingredients: I used Bellringer gin for this one.
Boy, do I love chartreuse! When I took a big whiff of this drink and the green chartreuse wafted up to my nose, I knew I was smiling. Green chartreuse was also what greeted my taste buds, though the botanicals of the gin were present as well and created the backbone of the drink. The black pepper contributed a pleasant warmth aftter each swallow. The drink had a surprisingly rich texture, most likely the result of the punsch, and was very complex considering the staggering amount of the flavors at play. The punsch was most apparent mid-palate, with the arrack and tea flavors shinging brightest. This drink was very much worth the wait and was every bit as good as I remembered.