"Shocking" History of Fish House Punch

Old Fish House Punch Recipe, so strong it has its own Poem, GreatPartyRecipes.com
Party Yak, GreatPartyRecipes.com

In this issue of Party Yak:

The History of Fish House Punch: Treat yourself to some delightful food history and an old punch recipe so strong they wrote a poem about it.

Fish House Punch is a very old punch recipe featured here on Great Party Recipes. I recently received mail from a descendant of the creator of Fish House Punch, informing me that the recipe on site "bears not the least resemblance to the recipe in my care, most especially as there were not, to my knowledge, bottled, carbonated beverages in 1848." Good point.

He describes it as "an elegantly simple recipe that requires only moderately careful adherence to the process of making the punch." I'm pleased to share with you the history of Fish House Punch and the original recipe, or at least the translation of it.

The Shocking History of Fish House Punch

Mr. Willing writes:

"Originated in 1848 by Shippen Willing of Philadelphia, my great-great-great-great grandfather, given to me by my father of the same name. Invented to celebrate the momentous occasion of women being allowed into the premises of the "Fish House" for the first time in order to enliven the annual Christmas Party.

The Fish House was an august gentleman's society devoted to escaping domestic tribulation, also cigars, whiskey and the occasional fishing foray upon the Chesapeake or the Restagoosh River in Nova Scotia. Great-great-great-great grandpa was delegated to concoct 'something to please the ladies' palate but get them livelier than is their usual wont.'

Mission accomplished, as attested in the society pages of the time, specifically the Philadelphia Inquirer."

Indeed, all the old references I could find to Fish House Punch comment on how strong it is. It even has its own poem:

Fish House Punch

There's a little place just out of town,
Where, if you go to lunch,
They'll make you forget your mother-in-law
With a drink called Fish-House Punch.

  1.     The Cook (1885)

Original Fish House Punch Recipe

A decent batch consists of:
30 limes, cut in half and squeezed, such pulp as gets through is fine
15 lemons, treat as above
This constitutes a "part" for measuring the rest of the ingredients:
1 part dark rum
2 parts light rum... Use a reasonable quality, these are friends you will be poisoning so treat them well
1 part brandy
1 part brown sugar
1 part water, in the form of a block of ice

Put sugar into a suitable container that has a tight lid. Gently work the citrus into the sugar until wetted out and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Ease the ice into the container gently as we do not want to waste any of this precious stuff! Gently "bail" the mix over the ice, cap it and repeat this every couple of hours until time to serve it.

This is the most important part: do the preparation and mixing early in the morning the day of the party and mix the ingredients every few hours to "mellow" them together into what will be a most refreshing punch. It is most proper to sample the batch each time it is mixed, to monitor the manner in which the materials are melding together.


Thank you, Mr. Willing, for sharing the history of Fish House Punch with us.

Modern Fish House Punch Recipe

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