This is a classic 18th century brandy rum punch, the kind that, in David Copperfield, made Mr. Micawber’s face shine “as if it had been varnished all over.”


3 lemons

6 ounces raw sugar cubes (roughly 18 equally sized cubes, or ¾ cup demerara sugar)

2 cups amber rum, plus extra for flaming (Dickens’s cellar held bottles of “fine old pineapple rum,” which David Wonderich, author of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, approximates by combining 12 ounces Smith and Cross Jamaican rum and 20 ounces Angostura 1919 rum in a sealable bag with an eighth of a pineapple, sliced, for 1 week then strained. If absolute authenticity is not your goal, settle for 2 cups of Smith and Cross.)

10 ounces Cognac-style brandy (preferably Courvoisier VSOP, the brand Dickens kept in his cellar)

4 cups boiling water (Dickens probably meant an imperial quart, or 40 ounces. You also could use black tea.)

lemon and orange wheels and grated nutmeg to garnish



1.Peel away the lemon zest with a vegetable peeler, leaving behind as much of the white pith as possible; juice the flesh into a small nonreactive bowl.

2. Combine the lemon peel, sugar, two cups of rum and brandy in an enameled cast iron pot with a snug fitting lid.

3. Warm a heatproof stainless steel spoon under hot running water and dry it thoroughly.

4. Pour rum into the spoon, hold it over the pot and carefully light it on fire with a long match. Slowly, pour the flaming rum from the spoon into the pot just above the surface, igniting the contents (always bring the fire to the alcohol, not the alcohol to the fire). Let the liquid in the pot burn for three to four minutes, gently stirring it occasionally with a long handled bar spoon, and being careful not to over stir and put out the flame.

5. Cover the pot with a heatproof lid or metal pan to extinguish the flame.

6. Strain the reserved lemon juice into the mixture, add the boiling water and stir to combine.

7. Cover the pot with a heatproof lid until the flavors meld, about 5 minutes, then stir it again.

8. Simmer, partly covered, over medium low heat until the flavors combine and bloom, 15 minutes

9. Serve the drink in heatproof mugs, garnished with citrus wheels and grated nutmeg.


adapted from the Crate and Barrel blog

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