Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Advil Calendar 2011: December ten ten Ten TEN FOR EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING (i.e. punch)

Is a Saturday night, and YOU might be having a party. Or you might be going to a party, like my friend Dances With Chickens, who will be attending the Drink Until You Love the Baby Jesus Party tonight (is that not the best holiday party name you've ever heard?). Dances With Chickens is currently incadrinkitated (knocked up), but that doesn't mean she is not gonna take something.

I like taking a pitcher of some kind of punch to parties - it doesn't have to be kept warm, it is always welcome, you can give it a funny name (Punch of Ages, The Punch Heard Round the World, 83-Year-Old Astronaut Punch), and if you forget to bring the container home, well you can probably live without that pitcher until the next time you see your host. So. Just in case you were thinking about entering the throwing or going fray:

DECEMBER 10th: DO's and DON'Ts of PUNCH

DO: make your punch beforehand.
DON'T: bust out the fine table linens.
Here's what I've found after reading about a hundred punch recipes: punch is terrible stuff. It always creeps right the hell up on you because you've just been ladling it into a plastic cup all afternoon and too late you realize you don't have the least idea what's in it or how much of it you've drunk.

At best, it might include a high-fructose corn syrup mixer, which - you may not know this - can be a major contributor to the kind of hangover that'll make you start re-evaluating your every life choice.

And at worst, that festive bucket of grog will contain Everclear, which you know can be a major contributor to the kind of hangover that'll make you start re-evaluating your every life choice. Hell, given enough grain alcohol, you might be on your way to a little re-evaluation before the party's even over.

More useful information, right? I live to serve.

I thought about inserting a picture of Mel Gibson (DON'T: grow up to be an adulterous misogynistic drunk penis) or Woody Allen (DON'T: marry your stepdaughter) or Charlie Sheen (DON'T: speak) here as examples of people who probably had too much punch and then started making really dumb life choices, but nobody needs to see that. Instead, I offer my cat's namesake, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, stone cold sober, socking the hell out a some twerp conspiracy theorist who called him a liar and a coward to his face. Guess whose face got the worst of the bargain.

DON'T: invite disrespectful conspiracy theorist
dickheads to your party.
DO: invite Buzz Aldrin.
You wouldn't believe some of these punch recipes, by the way. In addition to calling for truly staggering amounts of liquor - gallons, in some cases - they'll also ask for a whole lot of strong tea, fortified wine, or, often as not, an entire bottle of peach brandy.

Additional advice: avoid peach brandy. It will make Buzz Aldrin want to punch you in the face.

The recipe I picked - well, you're going to think I picked it for the name... and you'd be right. Seriously? Nuremburg? Oh hell yeah, just thinking of that place makes me want to party! But it turns out I am very interested in this punch's main ingredient, arrack.

There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark, but he's an arrack knave! (DON'T: quote Shakespeare at your party, or in fact under any circumstances. And if you do quote Shakespeare, DON'T quote Hamlet.)

"Arrack" is a word that covers a variety of fermented liquors from Asia and the Middle East. If arrack is from Sri Lanka, it is from the unopened flower of the coconut palm. If it's from Indonesia, it's distilled from sugar cane. If it's from the Philippines, it's also coconut based, but from a different process.
NUREMBERG PUNCH. (For a party of 15)
Take 3/4 of a pound of loaf sugar; squeeze upon it, through muslin, the juice of two or more good- sized oranges; add a little of the peels cut very thin, pour upon a quart of boiling water, the third part of that quantity of Batavia Arrack, and a bottle of hot, but not boiling, Red or White French Wine -- Red is best.
Stir together. This is excellent when cold, and will improve with age. 
Because of the age of this recipe - it's from The Savoy Cocktail Book - I suspect that it's Batavia arrack (the sugar cane kind, from Indonesia) that we're looking for here. Also because I cannot imagine coconut and red wine together being anything decent at all. And you want to kind of mash the orange peels into the sugar to release as much of the oil as possible.

I think I might make this as the hot wine punch we serve at our annual Pig Roast on New Year's Day. Two years ago I got my friend Segrid to lend me her ancient family recipe for glögg, and holy shit that stuff was a spicy delicious eight-ball of intoxication. Luckily, I wasn't carving the pig that year. I need allll my fingers.

Can't find arrack? Prefer a more theatrical display? I gotcha covered. Enter Feuerzangenbowle, the "fire-tongs punch." Buckle up, ladies and gents.

2-3 bottles of dry red wine

2 cups amber or dark rum (at least 54% alcohol, 80% would be better)
2 oranges
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1 "Zuckerhut" ("sugar hat")
dash of ground ginger
(optional) 2 lemons

NOTES: If you can't find loaf sugar in the baking aisle, you could use 1/2 lb of sugar cubes, or the Mexican brown sugar that comes in cones or pucks.

This thing is traditionally made with a "Feuerzange," some kind of fondue pot sounding thing, but I didn't have one on hand, so the following instructions incorporate my mittelamerikanische improvisations:

Put the wine into a stock pot and heat it slowly.

Wash the fruit with hot water, peel in thin strips.
Now put the zests, spices and juice in the bowl.
Place a wire screen spatter guard over the stock pot and put the loaf sugar on it. You could also use a wire strainer if you have one big enough.
Pour a ladlefull of rum onto the sugar, allowing it to soak in. Then carefully light it.
When the flame on the sugar has stopped burning, repeat the process with a fresh ladle of rum. Add the rum very slowly this time or you will burn your hand.
When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove the screen and add another ladle of unburnt rum to the bowl.
Remove the drowned citrus and spices, and ladle into cups.

Party hard but party safely tonight. I leave you with this, because it's really a party once The Nuge shows up: