Temperatures are cooling off everywhere and The Best Drink Ever is teaming up with at-large bartender BarMax LA to recreate a light punch recipe from one of the most impactful cocktail books of these modern drinking days. We first picked up a copy of “The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual” a couple years back, hoping to gain insight on how to replicate some of the drinks served in the New York City bar, 5000 miles away from warm, sunny California. To our surprise, it was filled with punch recipes and techniques, which any home bartender is tempted to put to the test, despite its typically large format and output.
“Punch,” which is heavily featured on the DR's first book traditionally balances sweet, sour, spice, water and a lead spirit. To no surprise, the concept of mixing ingredients in alcohol stuck around, from colonial times to modern days and it's more than likely that a Punch bowl was in sight to witness history as it unfolded everywhere.
We recognize that having local ingredients is what makes a fresh punch so the idea from day one of this project was to use local fare to replicate a known recipe. As a home bartender, you're relying on the text to get proportions and flavor profile suggestions, as tested by from some the best in the game. With a plethora of cocktail books to choose from, there's very little incentive to "wing it". That is home bartending in a nutshell: you get an idea and you make it work with what you have in your own kitchen/garden/pantry maybe even your closet - no judgement so long as no harm is being inflicted.
Arrack is a small category in the US so finding alternatives in the spirit was at the very least, troublesome. BarMax has his tricks as he looks for new releases to incorporate in his original recipes. "I know a guy or two" -- he jokes! We were pointed to Papo Js vodka by a mutual friend, which tasted the Lambanog at a private tasting, at a local liquor store. It turns out there's a lot to like about this vodka, which is distilled pure from coconuts in the Philippines. It goes much in line with how arrack production goes in all of the West Indies, including the original Batavia Arrack.
Ultimately, you're looking for that open finish that's typical of an un-aged spirit and perfect for punch recipes. Papo checked all the boxes. With our local spirit in hand, we are now ready to make some punch.
BARMAX LA's BANTAM PUNCH (inspired by The Dead Rabbit's Meriton Latroon's Bantam Punch)
- 25 ounces Papo Js Lambanog Vodka (3oz per serving)
- 25 ounces Earl Grey tea, cold (3oz per serving)
- 1 cup coconut palm sugar (1/2oz. 1-1 simple syrup)
- 6½ ounces fresh lime juice (3/4oz. per serving)
For the Saccharum:
Peel of 8 limes (one per cup) and 2 cups granulated sugar (1/4oz per cup)
Any good punch begins with oleo-saccharum which is fancy for macerating sugar into citrus peels. Letting it sit for at least 1 hour in warmer temp will get the oils from the citrus going, then add the lime juice to the sugary mush and fully dilute it. Your punch recipe is under way!
Then we follow Dead Rabbit's preparation guidelines after mixing all of the other ingredients:
"Strain through a chinois into a punch bowl. Place a large block of ice in the bowl. To serve, add a small chunk of ice to each cup."
Punch bowls are typically served hot to warm up guests, perhaps around a wintery Holiday gathering or an unseasonably hot December day in Los Angeles. Punch's versatility allows for variations, and books of all kinds offer ways to test recipes, no matter the climate experienced. To no surprise, punch bowls are now seen in warmer climates, featuring beautiful blocks of clear ice and cold water, pushing the recipes' feel toward a gimlet of sorts, comprised of diluted citrus, spirit, sweet and spice. Perfect year round! Punch in a glass!
Excerpts From: Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry & Ben Schaffer. “The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual.” Apple Books. https://itunes.apple.com/us/bo...