Canadian Punch-Up

A number of “Canadian” cocktails or whiskey blends in 19th- and early 20th-century literature calls for mixing whisky and rum.

At first sight, this strategy seems suspect given the expected clash of sugar-derived spirit and something minty/piney/grainy from rye. In fact though, it makes perfect sense as Canadian whisky early on had developed into a fairly mild blend, of which I’ve written earlier on these pages.

Given this postulate, the rum functions as a useful flavouring and illustrates the flexible definition of Canadian whisky which permits addition of any domestic or imported wine or spirit as flavouring.

(You can turn it around, too, and use a fairly neutral white rum against a highly flavoured whiskey distilled at a low proof, or with a good component of same. Say, Lamb’s white rum with Dark Horse, but the former approach was probably more the intention).

The Canadian Punch recipe shown opposite is potent as advertised, i.e., notwithstanding that an equal amount of the spirits is mixed with mineral water, as it is at least 20% abv. Most punch would come in under that, consistent with a drink served in cups not shot glasses at a garden party or seasonal or other festivity. Drinking iced punch of this nature will make its effect felt pretty fast.

Give it a try, the recipe is easy to scale down, too. The lemon and pineapple have an odd synergistic effect. No spices are prescribed for this recipe, and you don’t really need them. I’ve used Wiser’s (a regular brand, not Legacy, say) and Myers dark rum and the effect is superb.

I recall Captain’s Table, an old McGuinness whisky that needs to be brought back. Did it contain some rum? I’m not sure, the name of course and bottle shape did conjure a naval image. But anyway you can make your own rum-infused Canadian whisky – unpunched I mean – just add some good rum to a bottle of any light-bodied whisky.

The recipe (via HathiTrust) is from Along The Wine Trail: An Anthology of Wines and Spirits (1935) by G. Selmer Fougner (1884-1941). He was a wine and food columnist in New York and issued books in the wake of Repeal to educate the public on gastronomy and wine culture. He was a top food writer of his day, like Anthony Bourdain of our time, but also took an equal interest in the bibulous. He would have made, I’m sure, a fine host of the modern tv food-and-travel documentary.

Raise a Canadian punch – don’t throw one – to his memory, eh?