Guests at Kettner’s Townhouse and Dean Street Townhouse are being served small pewter cups of punch. Here’s how the centuries-old drink came back into style
To anyone who first tried it at a teenage party, it may come as a surprise to find punch on the menu at Dean Street Townhouse and Kettner’s Townhouse. But this sociable serve, ladled out of large bowls on the bar or table, is set to be one of the biggest drinks trends for 2018.
“Punch has had negative connotations in the past because of its association with students and cheap syrups, but that’s changing,” says Emanuel Ferris-Hue, head bartender at Millie’s Lounge in The Ned, where the recently introduced Millie’s Cobbler (pear cobbler, fino sherry, Tapatio Blanco tequila, lemon, pear cordial and grapefruit bitters) is going down a storm.
In London, the revival began at the original Hawksmoor restaurant, where founder Nick Strangeway put together a popular punch menu served out of vintage bowls, ladles and cups. “He changed our perception of punch, so that now it’s not about how much alcohol is in it but what it looks like as the centrepiece in a room,” says Emanuel. “And because you have to ladle it out it’s a very social drink, especially if you’re making it at home and people are sitting round it.”
Punch was originally created by British sailors working for the East India Company in the 1600s (the name comes from the Sanskrit word pañc, meaning five, because of its five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and tea or spices). The sailors apparently drank it to ward off scurvy, but it was soon adopted by the upper middle classes, who served it at parties and before the departure of hunts. Word spread to the American colonies, where the founding fathers drank punch to celebrating signing their Declaration of Independence.
After a time of being seen as too sweet and too strong, the drive to reduce waste in bars and kitchens is helping to boost punch’s popularity once more. Garnishing Old Fashioneds with orange rind, for example, leaves bartenders with a lot of spare oranges that could be juiced for a Zombie-inspired punch.
The trick is getting the dilution and ingredients right. Sherberts, nutmeg, Earl Grey tea, peach brandy, Champagne, dry and pale dry fino sherry all go to make a good punch, says Emanuel. “Dry sherry, whether it’s amontillado or fino, works well because of its slightly savoury nature, hitting the palate in places that sweet and sour flavours don’t.”
One of the best places to try it is in a dedicated punch bar, like the one at the Edition Hotel in London. But punch is also appearing at Dean Street Townhouse, where it will be served to diners as a welcome drink, and Kettner’s Townhouse, where the piano bar and champagne bar will each have a version. Try their sample recipes for yourself at home, or go waste-free and experiment with whatever you have lying around.
Words by Frankie Mathieson. Photography by Jason Hindley