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Recipe: 'Meriton Latroon's Bantam Punch'

Punch: The Delights (And Dangers) Of The Flowing Bowl


For we had not only the country drink called toddee, which is made of the juice of several trees, and punch, which is made of rack-lime, or lime-water, sugar, spices, and sometimes the addition of amber-grease, but we likewise drank great quantities of Persian wine, which is much like claret, and brought from that country in bottles.

SOURCE : Richard Head/Francis Kirkman, The English Rogue, Continued, in the Life of Meriton Latroon and Other Extravagants. Comprehending the Most Eminent Cheats of Most Trades and Professions. The Second Part, 1668


In a mortar or small bowl, muddle a piece of ambergris the size of a grain of barley with an ounce of Indonesian gula jawa or other dark, funky sugar until it has been incorporated. Add 2 ounces Batavia arrack and muddle again until sugar has dissolved. Break up 5 ounces of gula jawa, put it in a two-quart jug with 6 ounces lime juice and muddle together until sugar has dissolved. Add the ambergris-sugar-arrack mixture and stir. Add the remains of the 750-milliliter bottle of Batavia arrack from which you have removed the 2 ounces to mix with the ambergris, stir again, and fi nish with 3 to 4 cups water, according to taste. Grate nutmeg over the top.


Ambergris is clotted whale cholesterol, secreted in large lumps that float around until they wash ashore. That doesn't sound very appetizing, but by the time it washes up, ambergris has aged into a lightly, sweetly and very persistently fragrant substance that most resembles soap. What with the present state of the whale, it is also hideously expensive, but then again, it was never cheap ... Since it is essentially a fat, it must be rendered mixable before it can be used, which the above process will do. If the trouble, expense (it goes for about twenty dollars a gram) or squick factor is too much for you, it may easily be omitted, although it does add a subtle, insinuating I-know-not-what to the Punch that cannot otherwise be replicated. For muddling the ambergris, regular demerara sugar is better at absorbing the fragrance, if less authentic. If you can't get gula jawa, which is a sticky, funky mix of palm and sugarcane sugars, then muscovado, piloncillo, panela or jaggery will do. But it's worth tracking the real stuff down, as it gives the Punch its porterlike color and a good deal of its umami-driven brothiness. If you don't have a pitcher, a bowl will of course work just fine. I don't recommend ice here, although an hour in the refrigerator will do no harm. If you wish to incorporate tea, as Head's brief note seems to suggest, add 3 cups of hot green tea, made with 3 teaspoons of loose tea or three tea bags, to the sugar-lime juice-ambergris extract mixture, stir and then add the arrack.  Add, if necessary, another cup of cool water at the end.

YIELD: 8 cups.

From Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich. Copyright 2010 David Wonderich. Excerpted by permission of Perigree Trade.

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