It is the morning after the 79th anniversary of Repeal Day, the day that marked the end of Prohibition after 13 miserable years, and I’m feeling much the way that I imagine a lot of America felt when they learned they could once again legally drink in public. December 6, 1933 was likely the day America had one giant, collective hangover.
This morning I feel like that historic landmark.
I’d like to think my experience last night wasn’t too far from the one had by the booze hounds of December 5th, 1933, except mine probably included a lot more Instagram photos of punch taken at artistic angles. There was probably more facial hair last night than there was in 1993, but I digress.
In a dimly lit bar hidden behind a bookcase, Williams & Graham is designed as a speakeasy-style bar that developed during prohibition, so it seemed fitting that I celebrate Repeal Day there. Plus, I was in for a real treat as the world renowned David Wondrich was giving those in attendance a little lesson in making punch.
The evening started with a nice, crisp Garrick Club Punch. Once Wondrich got a little bit of the booze (delicious Hendrick’s gin) in his audience, then he began telling us the rich history that punch has in this world.
Fun fact: punch was originally developed to get sailors to stop bitching on long voyages. The daily rations of beer were spoiling long before they made it to their destination. Mid-voyage the crew typically had to reverse engineer the medicinal spirits on board to avoid massive crew hysteria and mutiny. The benefit to having punch instead of beer? The extra vitamin C in the punch’s citrus worked wonderfully to deter cases of scurvy. More on this, and other histories of punch, can be read about it in his book. However, as someone who’s both a drunkard AND a nerd, last night’s punchy education left me with a lady boner that just wouldn’t quit.
The evening continued on, Wondrich made us Los Altos Milk Punch (I’ll admit, watching the milk curdle gave me pause, but the resulting flavors were fantastic), Tea Punch Turenne and finally, Hot Doublewood Punch – which I tell you, I would probably meet my death drinking this if given an entire bowl’s worth. It may just be lemons, sugar, water, spices and Balvenie Doublewood single-malt Scotch, but goddamn, that was the most delicious thing I have ever put back.
After the history lesson Wondrich set down to sign copies of his book and chat for a while. Meanwhile, the bartenders whipped up a delicious collection of cocktails, compliments of William Grant & Sons.
I wish I could say I tried them all, but after 4 glasses of punch and 3 cocktails, there was only one thing on my mind: SNACKS! And by snacks, I mean an entire dinner. I vamoosed a little early, but I have got to say that Williams & Graham does not fuck around when they have a party. It was an absolutely privilege to have been invited and I can’t wait to read a little more about the history of punch in Wondrich’s book.
Of course, I didn’t forget about you, my boozie little friends, so here is the recipe for Hot Doublewood Punch. I’m convinced it might be the perfect holiday drink.
- Peel of 6 lemons, each cut in a ½” wide spiral with a veggie peeler
- 1 large lemon sliced into thin wheels and de-seeded (toss the ends)
- 8 oz Demerara or Turbinado sugar (also called “sugar in the raw”)
- 25 oz (one bottle) of Balvenie Doublewood single-malt Scotch
- 32 oz boiling water
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- In a heatproof bowl, muddle the lemon peels and sugar together and let it sit for at least 90 minutes.
- Muddle again and add 8 oz of the boiling water, stirring the sugar until it’s dissolved
- Strain the lemon peels out of the mixture
- Add the whiskey and stir
- Transfer to a crockpot
- Add remaining boiling water, lemon slices and the spice mix
- Stir until mixed and then serve it up