The holidays put me in the mood for punch. Christmas punch.
Punch was once a rather convivial social tradition. People would gather around a punchbowl at parties much the way they gathered around the water cooler at work. It was a way of making contact with the people in your life. Somewhere along the line our social connection began to fray. Water coolers were replaced with disposable plastic bottles and parties began starting with the question, “red or white? Of course the host was referring to wine.
I like wine. But I prefer wine as part of a meal, so I’m pleased that cocktails and all that go with them are making a comeback. This comeback includes punch.
We have David Wondrich to thank for re-introducing us to punch I’d say. In his book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl he says, that the punch bowl represents a vanished “social ritual … now that we have less face-to-face contact”. The more time we spend living behind our computers and devices the more we yearn to connect in a more personable manner. Call it old-fashioned, but I find my friends have easily adapted the to the punchbowl ritual and are made the happier for it. Because punch, especially Christmas punch has a certain conviviality.
Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized the social aspects of punch and even wrote a poem that starts with the stanza:
What I’m trying to say is this. The conviviality of the season has inspired me to make a Christmas punch. A rather traditional Christmas punch at that. The English probably adapted the idea of punch from India along with the spices you’ll often find in the most traditional recipes. The word punch probably comes from the Hindi “pantch” meaning “five”, and early recipes tended to specify this number of components: alcohol, sugar, lemon, tea and spices. However I’ve replaced the tea with something bubbly. Tis the season. GREG