This Hot Gin Punch recipe is made from gin, a spirit flavoured with juniper berries and other botanicals, (herbs and spices) – although in the 1700s, in the poorest urban districts, the cheapest ‘English’ gin used turpentine as a flavouring. In 1846 a reference to this is made in an edition of the satirical magazine ‘Punch’, “Did you speak to Taplino about the gin, Fanny, my dear? … The last was turpentine, and even your brewing didn’t make good punch of it.”
And while William of Orange may have first made gin popular in the late 1600s, both the upper and lower classes chose gin as their favourite method of intoxication; being consumed in vast quantities in the iniquitous and infamous ‘gin dens’ of the growing industrialised towns and cities … the 1759 book, “The Very Entertaining Adventures of Dick Hazard. A True Story”, (by an anonymous author) is an example of how classless gin had become in Britain, the author has the dashing hero, Dick Hazard, drinking a twelve-penny bowl of Hot Gin Punch with a club of beggars …
Hot Gin Punch Recipe
Makes about 1 Litre of Hot Gin Punch, enough for 4 or 5 people
Note on the strength: this recipe is made using the ratios suggested in the original recipes from the 1800s, however, if you taste the punch before serving you can further sweeten it if you think it needs it, but you can also add in some extra water, and heat it through, if you feel the gin in the punch is too strong for you.
Gin: There are many excellent makes of gin, some are very old recipes with botanicals (herbs and spices) added in, and most of these can happily be used in this recipe, for example Hendrick’s and Tanqueray are both fine to use, and work well in the punch, but I favour Gordon’s: the recipe for Gordon’s London Gin is known to only eleven people in the world, and has been kept a secret for 250 years.
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced, any pips removed
- 300ml gin (Gordon’s is recommended – Hendrick’s and Tanqueray also)
- 600ml water (bottled still mineral water)
- 200ml sherry (dark, ‘cream’ sherry)
- 150g brown sugar (demerara)
Into a saucepan add the sugar and the grated zest of one lemon. Cut the zested lemon in half and add all the squeezed juice over the sugar. Pour over the water and bring up to a simmer, stir to dissolve the sugar into the lemon juice and water.
Let this steam away for five minutes, then add in the gin and sherry. Slowly bring the Hot Gin Punch up to a boil, so it is steaming hot, then after a few minutes turn the heat off, add in the thinly sliced lemons, stir, carefully taste, and add in more sugar or water (to individual taste) if it is needed, then allow to cool for two or three minutes. Pour into heat proof glasses, adding in a lemon slice or two, and serve. Drink warm.
Tasting Notes: this punch is clean, simple, strong and delicious … the botanicals in the gin give it the main flavour, (which is why this authentic punch needs no other spices added in - in this case Gordon’s Gin already has juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root and at least one other botanical); the taste of gin is followed by lemon and a refreshing finishing note of sweet sherry.
People have a tendency to want to throw the ‘kitchen sink’ at a Christmas Punch or Mulled Wine, by that expression I mean they will try and cram in as many spices and flavourings as possible … while in this case, less is definitely more … if you are after a great night-cap for the winter, or a warming drink for an intimate gathering of friends, this really is the perfect drink.
The main references for this simple Punch come from the partial information Charles Dickens gives us for making Hot Gin Punch in, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and in ‘David Copperfield’, as well as some authentic recipes from the 1800s.
(Partial) Original Hot Gin Punch Recipes 1843 & 1850
Charles Dickens writes in ‘A Christmas Carol’, in 1843, “… while Bob, turning up his cuffs— as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby—compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round and put it on the hob to simmer”
And in ‘David Copperfield’ in 1850, he writes, “Punch, my dear Copperfield, like time and tide, waits for no man … His recent despondency, not to say despair, was gone in a moment. I never saw a man so thoroughly enjoy himself amid the fragrance of lemon-peel and sugar, the odour of burning spirit, and the steam of boiling water, as Mr Micawber did that afternoon. It was wonderful to see his face shining at us out of a thin cloud of these delicate fumes, as he stirred, and mixed, and tasted, and looked as if he were making, instead of a punch, a fortune for his family down to the latest posterity.”
Original Gin Punch Recipe 1857
From the ‘Liquor Dealers Guide’, Published 1857
Gin Punch. Yellow peel and juice of 1 lemon; gin 3/4 pint; water 1 3/4 pints; sherry 1 glass ; mix.
Original Hot Gin Punch Recipe 1835
From ‘Oxford Nightcaps’, By Richard Cook, Published 1835
The same as Oxford Punch, only omit the rum, brandy, and shrub, and substitute two bottles of gin.
Oxford Punch Recipe: Extract the juice from the rind of three lemons, by rubbing loaf sugar on it. The peeling of two Seville oranges and two lemons, cut extremely thin. The juice of four Seville oranges and ten lemons. Six glasses of calves-feet jelly in a liquid state. The above to be put into a jug, and stirred well together. Pour two quarts of boiling water on the mixture, cover the jug closely, and place it near the fire for a quarter of an hour. Then strain the liquid through a sieve into a punch bowl or jug, sweeten it with a bottle of capillaire, and add half a pint of white wine, a pint of French brandy, a pint of Jamaica rum, and a bottle of orange shrub; the mixture to be stirred as the spirits are poured in. If not sufficiently sweet, add loaf sugar gradually in small quantities, or a spoonful or two of capillaire. To be served up either hot or cold