Coming from a background that’s not entirely sophisticated, my experiences of punch consist of heinous, fruit laden mixtures served at student parties out of a plastic bucket. No one ever knew the exact ingredients and judging from the taste that was a blessing. My best guess would be cheap red wine, orange juice, lemonade and paint stripper.
So, punch it is. Great.
The only thing to do was see this as an opportunity to banish those dark yet blurry memories with a polar opposite punch – something light and elegant. After experimenting with camomile, jasmine and green tea infusions, this is the best combination I came up with – the cucumber was a last-minute addition and gives a subtle touch of coolness and depth to what is a quintesentially English tasting drink.
A Pippin of a Punch
(serves 4 if using a 25ml measure)
4 Apple shrub (marinade 2 sliced apples and 1 sliced lemon sprinkled with 100 gm sugar in 200 ml brandy for at least three hours – preferably overnight. This should produce enough for 2 batches)
8 Apple juice ( I juiced cox’s orange pippins but quality pressed apple juice is a good substitute and readily available)
2 Ginger syrup
2 White tea
8 Sparkling white wine, very chilled
8 slices of cucumber soused in 50 ml gin for at least one hour
Stir apple shrub, apple juice, ginger syrup and tea in a jug with ice until chilled. Strain into bowl and add wine. Then add cucumber and gin and gently stir twice before ladling into glasses.
Tips: The ginger syrup should be an accent flavour and not overpowering. If you want more sweetness then add plain simple syrup.
A short version of this recipe uses: 1 apple shrub, 1 apple juice, 1 white tea, few dashes of ginger syrup shaken over ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Use good quality white tea.
If you can’t get hold of a good white tea then a very strong infusion of camomile is a reasonable substitute. I used a ball of ‘The Tea Revelation’ (handmade with jasmine scented white tea surrounding an amaranth flower) from The Tea House – but for knowledgeable service Tea Smith in Spitalfields might be a better option.
I loved the recipe above so much I felt confident enough to have another crack. This recipe stems from having lived in Finsbury Park for ten years where I acquired a taste for Jamaican sorrel (Hibiscus flower) from the local Caribbean shops and restaurants. It’s a superb source of vitamin c and has a wonderful colour and fruity taste. I often make up a cordial with orange peel and honey for summer use or for teetotalers at parties but this is the first time I’ve used those flavours to infuse spirits.
I dried my orange peel in the oven at a low temperature, having removed any pith first. To infuse a half bottle of white rum use the peel of a whole orange and a good handful of hibiscus. It will turn jewel-red almost instantly but should be left at least three days.
1 Golden rum
1 Hibiscus and dried orange-peel infused rum
1/2 Orange Curacao
1 Pineapple syrup
Lemon or lime juice
3 Hibiscus tea
3 Fiery ginger beer
Stir everything but the ginger beer and lemon juice in a jug with some ice.
Strain into glasses or a bowl containing ice (use a block of ice if making in a bowl: for a block of ice, just freeze some cooled, boiled water in a plastic tub). Top up with ginger beer and add lemon or lime juice to taste.
You could use pineapple slices as a garnish if you felt the need but it’s such a rich colour I don’t think any garnish is really necessary.
Tip: The pineapple syrup recipe above is the best I’ve found but if you haven’t planned ahead then just add fresh pineapple cubes to 250 ml of simple syrup, simmer for about 15 minutes, squeeze juice out of cubes and strain. Next, pour a slug of rum over the fruit residue and scoff that with some coconut sorbet – ok, that last is optional but I strongly recommend it!