As part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at Death and Company in the East Village called "Behind the Bar." David Kaplan, who is a co-owner, and a number of bartenders told stories about how the place came to be, how each of them came to work there, and their collective philosophy and practice behind pulling together what is one of the city's (if not the country's) most elaborate cocktail menus.
Drinks were served along the way, but despite the heavy lubrication, I managed to retain an interesting fact—that Death and Company was the first bar in the country to ressurect the practice of punch service. (Another was the wonderful quote by Brian Miller: "Drinking is like exercise; you need to do it every day.")
According to the team at D&C, "Punch dates back to the early 1600's, long before the cocktail and literally translates to 'five' for the original key ingredients: sugar, tea, lemon juice, spirits, and spices." They always have a few punch options on the menu, and despite their deceiving smoothness, they pack quite a wallop. What could be more ideal for a Memorial Day weekend barbeque?
This recipe for Mother's Ruin Punch, created by Phil Ward, takes a little bit of advance planning, but is well worth it. Makes approximately 6 servings.
Mother's Ruin Punch
12 sugar cubes 3 oz soda water 3 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice 3 oz tea-infused sweet vermouth* 6 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice 6 oz Plymouth Gin 9 oz champagne Large block ice (I find that a pint-sized tupperware container works quite well)
Muddle together sugar cubes and soda water. Add the remaining ingredients. Serve in a punch bowl with a large block of ice.
For the Tea-Infused Vermouth: Combine 4 teaspoons loose Harvest Moon Tea (this is a cinnamon/apple black tea; you can substitute other black tea if need be) with one 750-milliliter bottle of Carpano Antica vermouth; stir or shake to combine. Set aside for 1 1/2 hours, then strain.