For a major American city, Boston has accounted for a paltry share of cocktail classics.
There’s the Ward Eight, of course, a sort of fancied-up Whiskey Sour that, legend has it, was created at Frank Locke’s Wine Rooms in 1898.
After that, there’s—well, there ain’t. One is entitled to wonder why that is. Could it be that Bostonians don’t drink? It couldn’t; they do. Or do they lack the mental acuity to combine alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients in just proportion? That won’t wash, either—Boston has always been a smart town.
The real reason, I think, is Rum Punch. Once Boston discovered this simple potion, sometime around the turn of the 1700s, it must have said to itself, “what could be better than this?” and quit monkeying about with bottles and whatnot. The American Revolution was planned over bowls of it at places like the Green Dragon Tavern and Chase & Speakman’s Distillery. (Up until Prohibition, New England produced a great deal of rum out of Caribbean molasses).
Post-Independence, the merchants who made the city wealthy drank Rum Punch in their clubs, and everyone else enjoyed it in the saloons. You could buy the elixir by the bowl, by the glass or even by the bottle (pre-mixed “Hub Punch” was a nineteenth-century staple).
But a proper Boston Rum Punch is an exceedingly straightforward affair. As one local bartender with a reputation for serving it explained to a Boston Globe reporter in 1889, “it is not always the elaborateness of the drink that makes it acceptable to the taste.” He suggested readers “simply take a good dose of first quality rum, put it into a glass with cracked ice [and] pour over it a dipper of liquid from the lemonade bowl.”
If you begin with a rich and flavorful dark rum—and Bostonians pride themselves on their discernment in this matter—and make as little intervention as possible, it’s hard to fail.
Boston Rum Punch
Contributed by David Wondrich
- 2 oz Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum
- Garnish: Nutmeg or half a strawberry and an orange slice
- Glass: Pint
Fill a shaker with finely cracked ice. Add the rum and fill with lemonade. Shake briefly and pour (unstrained) into a pint glass. Add a straw and garnish with either freshly grated nutmeg or half a strawberry and an orange slice.
- Peels of 6 lemons
- .75 cup Demerara sugar
- 6 oz Lemon juice
- 24 oz Water
In a bowl, muddle the lemon peels and sugar. Let stand for an hour or two to extract the lemon oil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until needed.
Contributed by David Wondrich
- 2 oz Rye whiskey
- .5 oz Lemon juice
- .5 oz Orange juice
- 2 tsp Grenadine
- Garnish: Cherry (optional)
- Glass: Cocktail
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you must garnish, garnish with a cherry.
David Wondrich is the author of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl and Esquire magazine’s drinks correspondent. He is also a Liquor.com advisor .