It would be very unusual to attend a wedding reception of any size, and not have a punch bowl full of a special wedding punch available. Since the mid 17th century, wedding punch has been added to the extensive list of wedding traditions. Everyone wants to have a memorable one-of-a-kind punch at his or her wedding. However, to make authentic wedding punch, you need to have an understanding of the history of punch, and its traditions.
The first mention of punch dates back to the early 1600s in India. This is not to say that it was invented by Hindus, but simply that the original ingredients were found there. The search for spices such as cloves, cinnamon, lemons, limes and ginger was the reason for the world explorations of the 16th and 17th centuries. Wars were fought over control of the trade in these valuable commodities. And the sailors who made these journeys carried the final vital ingredient for punch with them-rum.
Since ancient times, water quality was always questionable, and alcohol was used to make it safe to drink. First wine, then beer, and finally in the 12th century, distilled spirits were all used to purify drinking water. Therefore, for a ships crew, rum, which was the cheapest distilled spirit available at the time, was essential, because wine, beer and plain water quickly became bad and brackish during the long days at sea before the advent of controlled temperatures, and food preservation. Only spirits were immune from 'going-off', in all climates, and were resistant to freezing as well.
The early distilled products were not like the triple-filtered, oak barrel-aged products of today. They more closely resembled bad moonshine, or 'bathtub' gin, due to lack of quality control, climate control, and less-than-perfect sanitation techniques.
Sailors, mostly British, since they controlled that part of the world at the time, going to India soon realized that by adding the exotic spices of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and lemon or lime juice (all products of India, and Indonesia at the time), the rough rum was rendered into a very pleasant drink. It also had the added benefit of Vitamin C, vital to preventing the dreaded sailor's disease of Rickets. They used the Hindi word panch, or the Persian word paatsch, both meaning "five", to name the concoction, as the original recipe has five ingredients. This evolved into the English word punch. It was so popular that the large wooden kegs of the main ingredient, rum, came to be called puncheons. It was served both hot, and cool.
The sailors brought the drink bank to England, and it was an instant hit. Before long, every pub had its own special recipe for punch, and it was made up in large communal vessels called punch bowls, and set out for everyone to just dip a ladle full into their tankards, or just dip it out with their drinking vessels. The original recipe for punch called for:
- One part of sour (lemon or lime juice)
- 2 parts of sweet (simple Demerara, or Turbinado sugar syrup)
- 3 parts strong (Barbados, or Jamaican Rum, dark as possible)
- 4 parts weak (Earl Grey Tea, Chai, or water)
- Cloves, ginger and cinnamon to taste
The original recipe is a little feral by modern standards, but a great taste of history when you are feeling adventurous.
Punch was the most popular drink in the British Empire until just before the 20th century, when cocktails were developed. Cocktails were simply a less dilute version of punch. They came about due to a social change towards individualism. Cocktails were made and served in a private glass, rather than a communal bowl, or cask.
Punch became a permanent fixture of all festive and important social functions, such as Christmas, and of course, weddings. And each event spawned its own series of special recipes, such as Christmas Wassail, and Blue Wedding Punch (until the Renaissance, blue was considered the color of purity, not white. Brides wore blue, hence the phrase "something borrowed, something blue…").
In the modern world, punch has lost some ground as a favored everyday beverage, but it is still an integral part of most Western social functions. The recipes are as varied as the people who make it, with modern additions such as champagne, ginger ale, 7-Up, Sprite, and all kinds of fruit juices. Many times vodka, brandy, whiskey, and grain alcohol replaces the traditional rum. In the current climate of health-consciousness, and strict DWI laws, there are even non-alcoholic recipes that are outstanding beverages.
Here are some great Wedding Punch recipes to try:
raditional Blue Wedding Punch
2 quarts unsweetened pineapple juice
1-2 liter bottle 7-up
1-quart light rum
1 bottle Blue Curacao
1 can coconut crème
Mix all the ingredients together and pour into an ice-filled punch bowl. You can add more 7-up if you prefer it weaker. Garnish with citrus fruit and pineapple slices.
Southern Wedding Punch
2 fifths of Bourbon, or Tennessee Whiskey
2 bottles club soda, or Canada Dry
1 pint strong-brewed Orange and Black Pekoe Tea (regular iced tea, but please do not use instant, or Sweet Tea) Sun Tea is a plus….
12 oz. lemon juice
Mix everything but the soda, and pour into an ice-filled punch bowl (or a #2 washtub, your choice). Add soda slowly, and mix gently.
1 gal. Sauterne Wine
4 bottles champagne
2 bottles ginger ale
½ pint Sherbert
Mix all ingredients and pour into an ice-filled punch bowl. Garnish with fruit slices.
Traditional Non-Alcohol Pink Wedding Punch
2 quarts 7-Up
2 quarts red raspberry sherbert
2 large cans Hawaiian Punch
2 large cans pink grapefruit juice
1 can pink frozen lemonade concentrate, made as directed
Set the sherbert out and allow it to get soft.
Mix all ingredients in a large punch bowl, and add plenty of ice. Allow to chill for 30 minutes before serving.
Lastly, for a very simple, basic non-alcoholic punch, simply place half a large container of sherbert of your favorite flavor and color in a large punch bowl and allow it to melt. Pour in 3-2 liter bottles of 7-Up, but do not mix it. Now, just drop scoops of the rest of the sherbert in and let them float on top. It is OK to mix sherbert flavors and colors if you want.