In the Spirit
Grab ’n Go
Your cocktails need a vacation, too
By Tony Cross
When I go to the beach on vacation, the last thing I want to do is spend my time whipping up drinks. Who wants to pack a bunch of cocktail tools with the beach towels, the sunscreen and the latest John Grisham? Other than throwing together a margarita, I’m not doing anything besides laying out in the sun and sipping. So, here are a couple of punches — the non-violent variety — that you can throw together before you shut down the laptop and head for the coast. Consider portioning them out in small drink containers: Think 8-ounce water bottles. Keep in mind that you may still want to bring a hand-held juicer. Even though you’re traveling light, you may want to add the fresh lemon and lime juices à la last minute.
This classic punch is one of my favorites, because it’s easy to make and delicious. As Shannon Mustipher explains in her book, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails, “The ingredients are simple and echo an old Barbadian recipe for a rum punch in rhyme form: ‘One of Sour/Two of Sweet/Three of Strong/Four of Weak.’ This is the holy trinity plus the addition of spice.”
8 ounces pot still Jamaican rum (Smith & Cross)
3 ounces grenadine
2 ounces fresh lime juice
2 ounces still water
6 dashes Angostura bitters
If you’re batching this before you hit the road, combine all ingredients except for the lime juice; you’ll want to add that on the day of consumption. Also, if you are making this for more than four people, add your bitters last. When batching large amounts of cocktails that call for bitters, you don’t necessarily want to add the multiplied number of bitters into your batch. Start with half the amount, and then add more to taste. Lastly, make your grenadine from scratch, unless you’re buying from, let’s say, Small Hand Foods. It’s quite easy to make — equal parts POM pomegranate juice and demerara sugar; place over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Keep refrigerated after the syrup cools.
Before you go any further, order pisco online now — it’s hard to locate a bottle on any of North Carolina’s ABC shelves, but much easier after a few clicks on the web. “What is pisco?” you ask. It’s a spirit made from grapes, indigenous to Peru and Chile. If you’ve never tried a pisco sour, you haven’t lived, and if you’ve never tried the punch, well, you’re about to be reborn.
My memory is spotty, but I do believe that in his book Imbibe! David Wondrich explains how pisco punch was the only drink bars served in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast during the Gold Rush. This drink is easy to make, incredibly tasty, and unique and likely foreign to your friends and family. Use Small Hands Foods’ pineapple gum syrup — it’s killer. Years back when I bartended, I kept the punch pre-batched in my bar fridge, minus the lemon juice, of course. In Meehan’s Bartender Manual, bartender and author, Jim Meehan explains: “Pisco punch became legendary thanks to Scottish barman Duncan Nicol, who purchased San Francisco’s historic Bank Exchange Saloon — with its house punch recipe — in 1893 and kept it a secret, despite fanfare and public prying, until his dying day in 1926.”
Some speculate that Nicol’s secret ingredient wasn’t just the gum arabic, it was cocaine. Meehan says that might “explain why he permitted only two portions per patron.” Better to stick with the recipe below and imbibe safely this summer.
8 ounces Campo de Encanto pisco (did you order it yet?)
4 ounces pineapple gum syrup
3 ounces lemon juice
2 ounces pineapple juice
4 ounces still water
4 dashes Angostura bitters (optional)
(Serves four). PS
Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.