The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.52
SPRING2017

A formula for 1793 Charleston Light Dragoons’ punch.

The caption says ‘a’ rather than ’the’ formula because several of them have surfaced over the years and they are not at all the same thing. This version, similar to what is served at least as far south as the bar at Husk in Charleston itself and as far north as the ancestral home of a Canadian member of parliament in British Columbia, is by far the best one the Editor has found. The original recipes specify gallons and gallons of ingredients to slake the thirst of a horde; the bfia version reduces the scale considerably, down to merely a massive amount.


  • rum_label_two010.jpg1 quart strong black tea
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 quart brandy
  • 1 quart dark rum
  • ⅓ cup peach brandy
  • juice of six lemons
  • sparkling water
  • peel from 2 lemons in thin strips

  1. Brew the tea and dissolve the sugar in it while still hot.
  2. Let it cool to tepid, then stir in all the other elements of the punch except for the last pair.
  3. Chill the mixture for at least a few hours or even, according to folklore, four days.
  4. When you choose to serve the punch to your guests, who will not be driving, fill a glass with ice, top it with some peel, pour in the mixture and lighten it with as much (or little, if you dare) sparkling water as you like.

Notes:

-By tradition, you would need four days to steep the punch base and four days to recover from the punch itself. The bartender at Husk mixed ours up on the spot and it only took about a day and a half to recover; cause and effect? The punch is in fact so smooth and refreshing that the alcohol is hard to discern. The caffeine keeps you going too, so drinker beware.

-Do not use an overstrength rum or your guests will retire if not expire prematurely.

-Needless to say the punch is fabulous for outdoors dining on a hot summer’s day with a posse of good friends.

-You will want strong British or Irish tea for this; PG Tips, RNLS, Yorkshire brand, an Irish Breakfast tea or something from Bewley’s are good choices.

-Many recipes specify Jamaica rum, but Charleston had a longstanding association with Barbados so choose what you will but keep it dark.

-At Husk they use a higher proportion of peach brandy, for our proportions half a cup, but we thought the higher amount threw the punch off balance in favor of peach so reduced it. We also found it slightly sweet, perhaps because Yankees do not quite share the southern sweet tooth, so our recipe use a quarter less sugar proportionally.

-The Editor particularly likes Maciera brandy from Portugal; cheap, smooth and loaded with leathery flavor tones. It is assertive enough to stand up to the peach brandy and good enough to drink neat. An excellent product and a Thing We Like.

-Husk uses California brandy because the bartender there believes its cheap price would have made it attractive back in the day for making punch, but far enough back in the day there was no brandy from California so we choose to stick with what we like.

-Less salubrious versions start with whiskey instead of rum, add Curacao alone or in company with other liqueurs, as well as weaker green tea, limes, oranges, maraschino cherries with their syrup and sweetened or fresh pineapple. Stick with the simpler and, we submit, more authentic bfia version.