Thursday, September 18, 2008

MxMo XXXI: 19th Century Cocktails


Mississippi Punch

2 oz. Brandy
1 oz. Jamaica rum
1 oz. Bourbon
1 tbsp. Powdered sugar
Juice of half a large lemon

In your shaker, stir the sugar and lemon juice together until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and a tumblerful of shaved ice. Shake well and serve unstrained in a large glass (I find a pint glass works well.)

Garnish with small pieces of orange and berries in season. A straw is recommended.

- Adapted from Imbibe! by David Wondrich.


A few notes:

~ I made two of these: one using Maker’s Mark, and one with Wild Turkey 80 proof. Neither of these are my favorite Bourbons by themselves, but they work fine in this recipe.

~ For the “Jamaica Rum“ intended for this recipe I followed the advice given earlier in the book:

“…Pusser’s Navy Rum is acceptable, as is Gosling’s Black Seal; better than both is an equal-parts mixture of the two.” (which is what I made)

~ Garnish-wise, I didn’t have an orange handy…but I did happen to have some fresh blueberries. I tossed a handful of those on top, and enjoyed watching them slowly sink as I sipped the drink. The overall effect was like an alcoholic, slushy bubble tea.

~ I don’t currently own a dedicated ice-shaving gadget so I just blew the bejeezus out of some ice cubes in an ordinary blender and what sprang forth was a pretty good approximation of shaved ice. In this drink it’ll do.

~ After sampling the first one, the Bamboo Babe suggested adding ¼ oz. Allspice/Pimento dram to the second. I used St. Elizabeth and it was a fantastic addition…it married perfectly with all the other flavors, and gave everything a depth & roundness, improving an already great drink. It’s insights like this that remind me that I’m with the right woman.

I’m fairly certain I’m the last booze nerd on the planet to get my copy of Imbibe! Since I just picked it up very recently, I haven’t yet fully plowed into it. I’m reading a bit here, a bit there, and skimming the recipes to get an overview. However, when I remembered that this month’s MxMo theme was 19th century drinks, I knew I had to pull a recipe from this book, regardless of how cursory a spin I took through it.

So even though I missed the MxMo deadline and am officially late to the party (Although the fine folks hosting MxMo this month at have kindly made allowances for idlers like me.), I settled on the Mississipi Punch. There’s a whole section on punches, and most of them look pretty darn good to me. However, I like Bourbon and rum, and happened to have all the requisite ingredients in the house, so the Mississippi was the lucky winner.

At first I was skeptical because of the 2 oz. of brandy called for. Brandy is a taste I’ve yet to acquire, but I reasoned (or more accurately, hoped) that the other ingredients would do their part and keep things balanced. Fortunately I was right.

The Mississippi Punch is one of those drinks that has the characteristic of all the base spirits blending together well, yet each one still being able to be picked out. There is probably a name for this phenomenon, so I’ll rely on my more knowledgeable colleagues to clue me in. Also, it’s a strong drink, but doesn’t have an overly boozy burn. It definitely evokes the era when tipplers weren’t shy about getting a snootful …but still wanted it to be flavorful and have the veneer of class.

You can also look at it this way: If you have Bourbon, rum and brandy lying around and don’t particularly like any of them on their own, the Mississippi Punch is definitely for you. You could probably even make a game out of challenging your fellow drinkers to identify the 3 base spirits. The first one to correctly identify them all gets to wear some sort of distinctive hat signifying his/her status.*

* but considering a lot of booze nerds wear odd hats anyway, the impact of this particular prize may be somewhat lessened.


Kaiser Penguin said...

I remember the Mississippi punch from one of his other books, Esquire Drinks.

Tasty and strong, like a good tiki drink.

How do you feel about garnishing with fruit that isn't in the cocktail? I'm torn. Everytime I make a pimm's cup I can't avoid putting in orange slices and cucumber, but neither find their way into the actual cocktail.

Dr. Bamboo said...

Good question! Now you've got me pondering several things garnish-wise:

1) Garnishes whose flavors appear in the drink

2) Garnishes whose flavors do NOT appear in the drink (and are purely cosmetic or are meant to contribute aroma only)

3) Savory vs. sweet

4) garnish/drink combos that are puzzling (i.e. Why *is* cucumber a traditional garnish for a Pimm's cup?

Dammit. This could require some extensive research and experimentation ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think pimms has traces of some of the less volitile compounds in cucumber...the fresh, easily spoilable compounds of the cucumber that the garnish lends are all the drink seems to need for the refreshing cucumber flavor, muddling a slice seems to be overkill to me...

What I'm trying to say is that, cucumber is likely already in pimms, as is bitter orange peel...the fruit is already in the cocktail.

Tiare said...

I love this drawing!

I have yet to try the cocktail, i don`t have any brandy.

I think a sugarcane stick would make an interesting garnish and apropriate too as its rum in it.

Or a very broad lemon twist.

Doug Winship said...

I am really going to have to get a funny hat for the Pegu Lounge....

rafe/lindsay said...

dr. bamboo,

Just to make you feel a little bit better, yours truly was also one of the last booze nerds to pick up Imbibe!. So, don't feel so alone...

Dr. Bamboo said...

Anonymous- Thanks for the insight!

Tiare- A sugarcane stick *would* be a great garnish for long as it was big enough not to get lost in a tall glass. And thanks for the kind words!

Doug- You should have at least one funny hat on hand at all times...preferably more.

Rafe- Okay, now I feel better. Also, I was getting really tired of faking it. "Imbibe!? Uh, yeah, sure...I have that...I picked it up months ago."