The dictionary defines it as “a beverage consisting of wine or spirits mixed with fruit juice, soda, water . . . and flavored with sugar, spices, etc.”
A tasty beverage, for sure. But hardly an inspired or creative one.
Just some booze and juice. That’s it.
So craft punches? You’ve got to be kidding, right?
Not if you’re Dan Searing.
“Most people think of sugar and ginger ale when they think of punch, but there’s more to it,” says the bartender and former manager of Looking Glass Lounge. “Punch is an antecedent to cocktails, and at a time when so many people are researching and being inspired by cocktails and their history, looking back at the history of punch seemed like a logical extension.”
Searing has partnered with Warehouse Theater owner Paul Ruppert, chef Ben Gilligan, and Nick Pimintel to launch Punch Club, a weekly event at the Warehouse. Held every Thursday from 6 PM to midnight, Punch Club is exactly what it sounds like: a gathering where a variety of different classic punches are served.
The idea started to take form after an invitation from Ruppert to host some type of event at the venue, which closed down in 2007 but recently—temporarily—reopened to host a slew of inauguration events.
“I thought punch would be good because it really hadn’t been done before, at least recently, in DC,” says Searing, who borrowed a page from Hummingbird to Mars—the exciting but short-lived speakeasy-style party started by fellow bartenders Owen Thomson, Justin Guthrie, and Derek Brown—when coming up with the concept.
Punch Club is a similar type of event, albeit less formal and exclusive. No special invitations are required in order to attend, just an appreciation, or at least some interest, in punch. Typically, three to four different punches are featured every week on the menu, which also includes cocktails, wine, beer, and even some small snacks such as grilled-cheese sandwiches or soups.
Recipes, such as the Mutton Hill—a 17th-century punch that combines rum, brandy, and stout with lemon peel, sugar, and water—are dug up from the Internet or old books by Searing, who’s a history buff.
It’s no surprise then, that when asked to select a cocktail for a video demonstration, Searing chose a drink that can also be made as a punch. The Taylor Made, created by cocktail guru Dale DeGroff, combines cranberry and grapefruit juices with bourbon and Falernum, a rum-based cordial flavored with lime and almond.
“I was originally attracted to this cocktail by its name,” says Searing. “ I live on Taylor Street in Petworth, and Taylor is also the name of the brand of this Falernum. Another reason is that it uses fairly common ingredients like bourbon, cranberry juice, and grapefruit juice. The two less-common ingredients are the Falernum and the honey syrup—both of which are easy to make.”
To make the honey syrup, dilute some honey with warm water, stirring the mixture until the honey dissolves and the combination acquires a liquid consistency. Watch our video for Searing’s explanation on how to make (or where to purchase) the Falernum, and make sure to get the recipe below.
Dan Searing, Warehouse
1½ ounces Old Bardstown bourbon
1 ounce grapefruit juice
1 ounce cranberry juice
½ ounce honey syrup
¼ ounce Falernum
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of grapefruit peel.