Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fathom the Bowl

I am so excited for the eighteenth-century Christmas party I'm heading to this weekend! Nothing beats a fire roaring on the hearth, singing carols with the ladies, laughing with the gentlemen gathered in the tavern and, if we're lucky, a few rounds of dances.

Eighteenth-century festivities bring to mind one beverage for me. No, not rum (depsite Pirate-y fame) or whiskey (despite the rebellion that bears its name) or, even, Scotch. Yes, I do drink my share of Scotch at many eighteenth-century festivities. But the beverage I have in mind is...Punch.

Those eighteenth-century folk certainly knew how to make their punch. You could think of punch as the first incarnation of the cocktail as we know it--liquor with other stuff added for kicks. The first punches were simple--sugar, water, lemon juice, spices, and the requisite spirits. This song (probably early nineteenth century, but you never do know) extolls the fine ingredients and their origins:

Fathom the Bowl

From France we get brandy, from Jamaica it's rum,
Sweet oranges and lemons from Portugal come;
But stout, ale and cider are England's control,
Bring me the punch ladle, we'll fathom the bowl.

chorus: Fathom the bowl, fathom the bowl,
Bring me the punch ladle, we'll fathom the bowl.

Trust me, it's a catchy tune. Fathom the Bowl, of course, refers to dredging out a cup of punch with the ladle. How much is left? Not nearly enough. Add some more, as with the punch a good friend of mine makes, Champagne and whiskey. Because those wily eighteenth-century punchmakers didn't stick with the simple stuff--no, they quickly tested new recipes that used oranges, wine, tea. All in the name of a good ladle of punch. More on the history of punch and the challenges of recreating it in this fine article. And a recipe for, it's said, Martha Washington's punch. Or, just do as those first intrepid punch makers did, embrace the spirit of the Enlightenment, and experiment!


Brownpaperbaggirl said...

I hope you have a wonderful time! It sounds absolutely lovely. That punch does too.

Connie said...

The Martha Washington punch looks great. I think I might try it for Christmas. Thanks for sharing.

Rowenna said...

BPG--thanks! Will have a glass of punch in your honor :)

Connie--I do a different punch every year for our Christmas open house. I might go traditional this year and try this one!

Ax said...

Hmm... I'm getting ideas for this stay-at-home-alone-and-watch-the-farm-Christmas tradition I've started... :p

Rowenna said...

Ax--Indeed! Just add a fire on the hearth (or a movie on the laptop) and a dog or cat to warm your feet...and what else do you need, really?