Over the river (Hudson) and through the woods (Harriman State Park), to the bourbon distillery we go. The Mini Cooper knows the way to carry…. I have no idea why the Mini knows the way to Tuthilltown Distillery. It must be that once-British, now-German engineering.
It is time to expand the vintage cocktail to include entertaining for many. The holidays approach quickly when sitting at the local bar. Some of you may be feeding an army this Thanksgiving. Here is a recipe that's guaranteed to fell that army — the Chatham Artillery Punch. But first, the bourbon.
We went to Gardiner, New York on a perfect autumn day to check out the first distillery in the state since the Prohibition, Tuthilltown Spirits. The four-year-old distillery has a retail store and a tasting room — something that I took full advantage of. For ten dollars, you get to taste three of their current whiskeys. On that particular day, they had Corn Whiskey, Baby Bourbon, 4-Grain Bourbon, Manhattan Rye, and New York Whiskey. The alcohol was offered in order of complexity, each one amazingly smooth.
Tuthilltown is causing lots of buzz on the spirits circuit. As Green Acres as it appeared on the outside, inside the store, a film crew was shooting a video – an indication of the distillery's sophistication and popularity. However, our little field trip wasn't ignored in the media swirl. The lovely clerk was very attentive to us homespun blogger types.
I came away with the Corn Whiskey, which was delicious and deserves its own column in the future. I also bought the Baby Bourbon and the New York Whiskey for the hubby's bar. A note on the New York Whiskey: this is a sour mash, so named because of the process of distilling, adding an older mash to a newer batch. It ends with a sweeter product despite the name. The wonderfully enticing bottles are all hand-capped. Perfect for Christmas gifts, but I get ahead of myself.
Tuthilltown is a trip of about two hours north of New York City, and I can't recommend it enough. The corn fields, the oak barrels, the roaring brook next door: it is an idyllic experience and can be revisited with each taste at home.
Pulling the Punch
Please take the trip if you're in this area, but don't pour the Baby Bourbon into the punch bowl. The BB is an expensive sipping bourbon, aged for a year in an American Oak barrel. In general, for punches, I suggest moderately priced alcohol — not the bottom of the cask that causes those lovely hangovers the next morning, but something in the middle. Jim Beam is just fine for the bourbon. The same goes for all the alcohols. Everything in moderation.
The Chatham Punch is as vintage as vintage can get. It is approximately 175 years old, originating with the Chatham Artillery in Savannah, Georgia. The Savannah ladies served this punch at military functions. Historical drunkenness ensued. The original recipes serve two hundred. I've scaled it back to serve around twenty.
Start this recipe a few days ahead, even a week before serving!
4 cups white rum
2 cups gin
2 cups bourbon
2 cups brandy
1 1/2 bottle sweet red wine
1 gallon strong cold tea
1 cup maraschino cherries, drained
1/4 pound pineapple chunks (fresh)
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
Juice of 4 lemons
1 bottle dry champagne
First problem: Where to put all this alcohol?! I found this great 2 1/2-gallon glass jar in Target — perfect for making punches. It's called the Montana Jar, and it was a fantastic find. Who knew Target had stylish glassware for brewing lethally alcoholic beverages? Love Target.
Mix all the ingredients except champagne in a clean container with a lid, and store in a cool place. I used the refrigerator.
Some recipes say this punch is ready in twenty-four hours. Others say it is ready in one week. One even says it can sit in the fridge for two weeks. From personal experience, the punch was ready the next day, but it was better, had more flavor, with every day it sat. After one week, I plan on putting in the freezer. Feel free to contact me for the results!
When serving, use a large punch bowl with blocks of ice, rather than ice cubes. You can make ice blocks with Tupperware in your freezer. Use a bundt cake pan for a decorative block. Add the champagne, some lemon wheels, and serve.
Warning: this beverage is very potent. Use caution. Remember that driving drunk in 1837 was different than driving drunk now. Then the horse really did know the way.