The Booking Office Bar at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel is famous for its authentic Victorian tipples, and to celebrate Charles Dickens' bicentenary today they have given us a recipe for a delicious warming punch that was concocted by the author himself.
Dickens was a huge fan of punches, often using them in his books: “When Mr. Pickwick awoke next morning, there was not a symptom of rheumatism about him: which proves, as Mr. Bob Sawyer very justly observed, that there is nothing like hot punch in such cases: and that if ever hot punch did not fail to act as a preventative, it was merely because the patient fell into the vulgar error of not taking enough of it.” (The Pickwick Papers, 1836)
In an 1847 letter Dickens gave the following recipe for this punch:
Peel into a very common basin (which may be broken in case of accident, without damage to the owner's peace or pocket) the rinds of three lemons, cut very thin and with as little as possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit, attached. Add a double handful of lump sugar, a pint of good old rum, and a large wine glass of good old brandy if it be not a large claret glass, say two. Set this on fire, by filling a warm silver spoon with the spirit, lighting the contents at a wax taper, and pouring them gently in. Let it burn three or four minutes at least, stirring it from time to time. Then extinguish it by covering the basin with a tray, which will immediately put out the flame. Then squeeze in the juice of the three lemons, and add a quart of boiling water. Stir the whole well, cover it up for five minutes, and stir again.
Want to make Dickens' punch yourself? Here's how...
- 6oz Demerara sugar cubes
- 400ml pineapple-infused rum (Myers)
- 250ml Courvoisier VSOP
- Juice of three lemons
- 1 litre of boiling water
In a heatproof bowl, combine the sugar, rum and cognac. Then carefully add heat to the mixture, allow the sugar to dissolve, then extinguish the flame. Add the lemon juice and boiling water and pour into a mason jar, cover and allow to cool. Taste and serve, either hot or cold.
Garnish: Pineapple wedge
To make the pineapple-infused rum:
Slice half of a large pineapple and add to 750ml of dark Jamaican rum, allowing it to infuse in a closed container for about 5 to 6 days (try it once a day after the 3rd day of infusing in order not to let the infusing agent overpower the spirit bearing in mind that fruits and other ingredients from different batches can have different levels of sugar, sour etc.)
The Charles Dickens Punch is priced at £8 for a glass or £90 for a Bowl serving 12 at the Booking Office Bar at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. bookingofficerestaurant.com