What an experience yesterday. A little under three hours with the Civil War General of Cocktails, Mr David Wondrich.
Dave is a walking encyclopedia of all things intoxcating, having gained fame for his lively drinks column in the american version of Esquire magazine and his amazingly well researched Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar, the Mixxit team had flown him out to pass on a little knowledge and in his words, ‘to do the tourist shit.’
Twenty or so bartenders crammed into the back bar of the Argyle to learn a little and laugh a lot. Wondrich has just wrapped up writing a book that explores the history and development of the Punch, precursor to the cocktail and tasty shared beverage of the sporting classes in auld New York. As such it was apt that the session started with a short history and a long drink.
Punch starts as a sailors beverage. As voyages began to stretch between continents and over months and years, more than a few problems evolved. First of all was with Beer, traditionally used to sake the thirst of the general rabble on board, when kept in barrels it didn’t last much beyond a few weeks, developing all manner of horrendous moulds and fungi. The officers too, were not exempt, their expensive wines ruined in the heat of the tropics, reduced to vinegar, or worse.
Somewhat unsurprising then that all eyes turned to the few barrels of medicinal spirits, seemingly unencumbered by the problems of the lesser ferments, they often appeared to improve with the length of journey. Continue reading