Captain Radcliffe’s Christmas Punch

Captain Radcliffe's Punch

Is the spirit of the season upon you? I bet it is. From Charlie Dickens to Charlie Brown all of our Christmas tales seem to have one theme: wouldn’t it be great if people would just spread a little holiday spirit all year-long? And by “spirit” of course, I assume they mean booze. Rum, whiskey, brandy, and cognac come to mind. I guess that’s why I try to set a good example and provide a cocktail recipe on this blog each Christmas season. This year is no exception and it comes in the form of Christmas punch. I’m serving this Holiday punch on Christmas eve, but it’s a simple concoction so there’s no reason not to keep this spirit alive no matter the season.

Christmas Punch

Captain Radcliffe’s Punch is a classic English punch circa 1680. According to the LA Times the original calls for “five bottles of wine and the squeezing of 72 lemons.”

This mini-modern version is adapted from David Wondrich’s book, Punch, it’s smooth-drinking and not too boozy. After all, I’m arguing for keeping the Christmas spirit pouring all year. Why kill the sentiment after just one drink?

At its best Captain Radcliffe’s Christmas Punch is a cognac drink (though I’ve seen brandy adaptations too) made a little sweet with Sauternes wine. It’s inspired by a romantic poem by the 17th-century English army captain, Alexander Radcliffe. In the poem, the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece became jealous of the earthy libation known as punch and decide to recreate a version of their own on Mt. Olympus with each deity providing one essential ingredient. Sounds like a boring poem to me, but in 1680 people were starved for entertainment I guess…

As I said this Christmas punch isn’t too strong, the mini-version has 6 cups of water in it already, so it’s best when chilled by a single extra-large block of ice instead of fast-melting cubes. GREG

Captain Radcliffe's Holiday Punch

Captain Radcliffe’s Punch 

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Captain Radcliffe's Punch


  • 4 lemons
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cup sweet white wine (preferably sauternes)
  • 1 (750ml) bottle VSOP cognac
  • 6 cup chilled water
  • freshly grated nutmeg (to taste)


Using a peeler, peel lemons, taking off as little white pith as possible. Transfer peels to a heavy bowl; reserve lemons. Add sugar; use a muddler or a wooden spoon to vigorously crush sugar and peels together until the sugar turns faintly yellow and slushy.

Juice the reserved lemons and add the juice to the bowl along with the peels. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a punch bowl; strain the lemon and sugar mixture into the punch bowl; discard solids. Stir in the wine and the brandy. Chill. To serve, stir in water and place a large block of ice in the bowl. Garnish with nutmeg.