While I’m all about celebrating holidays with the appropriate beverages, Thanksgiving is a tough one. That November day in 1621, the Pilgrims—bless their grim, determined souls—found themselves sweating things out at the end of a very long, very thin supply line. That meant, among other things, no wine, no beer and not even any gin. (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants without gin? It doesn’t bear thinking about.) So what say we forget about celebrating 1621-style and take our next option.
Abraham Lincoln made the holiday official in 1863. By then not only was there plenty of strong drink to be had, but we Americans were leading the world in the mixological arts. As proof, I offer the USS Richmond Punch—a Civil War-era concoction christened after a ship that would go on to be one of the longest-serving in the history of the Navy. It may seem time-consuming, but what better way to keep the hangers-on busy while you cook? And after a couple of cups of this rich, delightful and stimulating mixture (you can thank the tea for that last part), you’ll have something to truly give thanks for.
- 6 lemons
- 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
- 2 cups strong-brewed black tea (2 teabags brewed in 16 ounces water)
- 2 cups dark Jamaican rum (such as Smith & Cross or Myers’)
- 2 cups V.S. or V.S.O.P.-grade cognac
- 2 cups Graham’s Six Grapes ruby port
- 4 ounces Grand Marnier
- 1500 mL (2 750-ounce bottles) club soda or Champagne
- Garnish: 20 lemon slices
- Garnish: grated nutmeg
Serves about 20.
Place a 2- or 3-quart bowl of water in the freezer and let freeze overnight.
Peel 6 lemons with a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler, trying not to get any of the white pith.
In bowl, muddle the peels with 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar and let stand for an hour for the lemon oil to leach out.
Juice the peeled lemons and add the juice to the sugar mixture, along with the tea.
Strain out the peels and pour into a 1-gallon container.
Add the rum, cognac, port and Grand Marnier, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To serve, unmold the block of ice into a 2-gallon punch bowl.
Add the chilled punch stock and top off with the club soda (or, if feeling adventurous, Champagne).
Ladle into punch cups and garnish each with grated nutmeg and 1 thin lemon slice.