This legendary drink has remained mostly unchanged since the 1730s
A vigorous blend of rum, Cognac and peach brandy - the history behind the legendary Fish House Punch is as potent as its taste. Believed to have been first concocted in 1732, it may be one of the oldest clubhouse cocktails in the US. The country’s oldest fishing club - Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania (or the State in Schuylkill Fishing Club) - is credited with the invention of this heady drink.
Usually, you’ll find it being served over an ice block or ice mould in a huge punch bowl, with lemon slices being used for garnishing. Black tea or seltzer water also goes into it sometimes to further dilute the blend. Although easy to drink, the cocktail can kick in harder than you would imagine. Going by the lores, President George Washington was once lured by its deceptive taste, but apparently he couldn’t bring himself to write in his diary for three days after having this drink.
The notes written in 1744 by a government official - William Black, the secretary of an embassy of Virginia Commissioners - are said to have the first mentions of this potent punch. He described it as a “Bowl of fine Lemon Punch big enough to have Swimmed half a dozen of young Geese”. This apparently happened after he met a few local officials on the bank of the Schuylkill River, who took him to the club for a drink. But why did the people of Philadelphia loved to indulge in the fabled Fish House Punch so much? It is said that during the colonial era, it was tough to enjoy even the warm and pleasant summer days, and winters were anyway severe. At such a time, this punch came to their rescue as a popular cure-all drink and also imbibed a sense of relief and delight in them.
The Schuylkill Fishing Company also has an interesting past. The club, which also came into existence in Philadelphia some time in the early 1730s, had once declared itself a sovereign state. And to match this proclamation, the members of the club - that mostly comprised anglers and cocktail aficionados - started addressing themselves as ‘citizens’ of this small nation. Many wonder if the notorious Fish House Punch had a role to play in the making of these self-styled heroes. Primarily a place meant for gentlemen, the club was loyal to cigars, whiskey and the occasional fishing adventures upon the Chesapeake or the Restigouche River in Canada.
The classic Fish House Punch is arguably one of America’s most famous punch beverages. Thanks to its reputation, this powerful concoction is known to a lot more people compared with other legendary drinks. Although most vintage cocktails undergo changes and innovative improvisations over the years, this punch has remained largely the same or say unimproved. According to many mixologists and lovers of this punch, it’s nearly impossible to make this drink any better. So, is it safe to say that the famous Fish House Punch makes for a perfect cocktail - the one that mixes flavours and nuggets of history in just about the right proportions?
The ingredients required to make this punch are sugar, water, fresh lemon juice, rum (preferably, the Jamaican amber rum), Cognac, peach brandy and lemon slices.