Underhill Punsch, Jan 2009

Underhill Punsch

Amazingly, I’ve been making versions of this recipe for over 2 years now!

Latest version, this one distinguished by presence of actual Sorrento Lemons!

Underhill Punsch, January 2009

2 cups Appleton V/X Rum
1 cup Batavia Arrack
2 cup hot extra strong spiced tea (4 tsp Peet’s Yunnan Fancy Tea, 6 crushed cardamom pods, brewed in 2 cup water)
2 cup raw or natural sugar
2 Sorrento lemons sliced thinly, seeds removed

Put sliced lemons in a resealable non-reactive container large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Pour Rum and Batavia Arrack over citrus. Cover and steep for 6 hours.

Dissolve sugar in hot tea and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.

After 6 hours, pour rum off of sliced citrus, without squeezing fruit.

Combine tea syrup and flavored rum. Filter and bottle in a clean sealable container. Rest 24 hours and enjoy where Swedish Punch is called for.

Say a Boomerang, Biffy or even a Diki-Diki, if you are feeling brave.

Anyone got any other favorite uses for Swedish Punsch?

Kina Lillet Clone

I made my first attempt at an aperitif wine the other day, aiming for Cocchi Americano or Kina Lillet.

I bought 2 1/2 bottles of reasonably priced Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, brought it to 140 degrees and added 1 cup of sugar.  Stirred to dissolve.

Then I added the spice tinctures I’d previously made, starting with a touch, and tasting and adding.

I finally ended up with the following amounts, where I started to be able to perceive the earthy flavors of the Quinine and Gentian tinctures in the wine:

2 TBSP Seville Orange Tincture
2 TBSP Mexican Cinnamon Tincture
2 tsp. Gentian Tincture
2 tsp. Wormwood Tincture
3 tsp. Quinine Tincture
1/2 Cup Spanish Brandy

Cooled, poured it back into the bottles, rested for a day, and tried it.

My initial reaction is I got closer to Jean de Lillet than Cocchi Americano. Admittedly, it doesn’t have any Sauterne in the wine blend, so there is no botrytized character, as in the Jean de Lillet.

Challenges: It’s really hard to judge how something warm will taste chilled or in cocktails. I would have had to use much more of the spice tinctures to get close to Cocchi Americano.  It’s tempting to just mull the spices in the warm wine.  But that will make fining or filtering much more challenging.

The Wine was also a weird pick. Muscat Canelli or similar would be a typical choice for the wine base of a vermouth. But I was feeling completely uninspired by my choices of California Muscat. Loire whites are just some of my favorite wines.

A pretty good first try, I think. Everyone who has tried it has been quite complementary. Still, it isn’t what I was hoping for.

Bonus: At the grocery store on the way home they had Sorrento Lemons!  Picked up a couple and it was just the spur I needed to start a new batch of Swedish Punsch.  And yes, Rowley, this time I will make your Lemon Punsch Pie with the leftover sliced lemons.

Drinky Sorbets

As it is ice cream season, here are a couple drinky sorbet recipes I’ve had good luck serving at parties.

Don’t push the amount of alcohol, or you’ll end up with slushies instead of sorbet.

Mojito Sorbet

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
5 sprigs of mint
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 cup rum
Zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons mint chiffonade

Makes 4-6 servings.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Add the mint sprigs; stir until mixture comes to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand approximately 10 minutes.

Place a fine strainer over a large bowl and pour syrup mixture through (straining out the mint). Add lime juice, rum, and lime zest to the strained syrup mixture and stir to combine. Chill.

If you have an ice cream maker, process according to manufacturers instructions. About 5 minutes before it is finished processing, add the mint chiffonade to the freezing mixture. Store in a sealed container in the freezer.

If you do not have an ice cream maker, chill an stainless steel or pyrex pan in your freezer. The sorbet mixture should not come up more than an inch along the side of the pan. Add mixture to pan, and stir with a fork every hour until well frozen. After it freezes process in batches in a blender or food processor, stir in mint chiffonade, and store in a sealed container in the freezer.

Moro Decay Sorbet

1 c Sugar
1 c Water
1 c Moro Blood Orange Juice
1/8 c Bourbon
Zest of 2 Moro Blood Oranges
1 tsp. Angostura Bitters

Makes 4-6 servings.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cool.

Zest oranges into bourbon and stir to combine. Add blood orange juice, bitters and cooled syrup. Chill.

Strain mixture through cheesecloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

If you have an ice cream maker, process according to manufacturers instructions.

If you do not have an ice cream maker, chill an stainless steel or pyrex pan in your freezer. The sorbet mixture should not come up more than an inch along the side of the pan. Add mixture to pan, and stir with a fork every hour until well frozen. After it freezes, process in batches in a blender or food processor and store in a sealed container in the freezer.

Apricot Kernels

Since someone asked me about this, I thought I should write it up.

You may have noted I used Apricot Kernels in my Orgeat.

A friend asked, “so the cyanide from the apricot kernels isn’t a problem in the orgeat?”

First, let me say I’m not a scientist or a doctor. Please take anything I say here as simply conclusions and choices I have drawn for myself. Make your own choices and draw your own conclusions.

I will note that the seeds (and other parts) of all members of the rose family (Rosacea) contain cyanogenic glycosides. This plant family includes apricots, almonds, cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, and about 2,900 other plant species, On ingestion cyanogenic glycosides release hydrogen cyanide into your system. The amounts of these chemicals vary from plant to plant and species to species. Bitter almonds generally contain the most. Eating 50-70 bitter almonds in one sitting is enough to be potentially fatal for an adult human.

Fortunately, in most people, these chemicals are rapidly broken down by your liver, and do not build up over time. Small doses are apt to do no damage.

Just to be clear, we take in many potentially deadly chemicals every day. Caffeine and Alcohol are prime examples. For the most part, if we partake in relative moderation, our body cleans these potential poisons out with little consequence.

Apricot kernels have a flavor similar to the one we associate with the almond extract made from bitter almonds. Making Orgeat without almond extract or apricot kernels results in a taste that is mostly nutty and a bit meaty. None of that nice cherry-ish top note.

In my batch I used about 2 ounces of apricot kernels to make what amounted to a gallon of syrup. This was probably 20 apricot kernels. If you sat down and ate all 20 to 30 apricot kernels at once, you might be in trouble. However, dissolved in what amounts to over a gallon of syrup, I’m not worried.

However, if you’re prone to worry or a bit paranoid about your health, feel free to skip the apricot kernels and just use almond extract.

Myself, I’m kind of interested in bumping the percentage of apricot kernels used, in the hopes of being able to skip the almond extract altogether.

Additional Reading:

Are Apricot Seeds Poisonous? (The Straight Dope)
Yes, Apple Seeds and Cherry Pits are Poisonous(Anne Marie’s Chemistry Blog)

Homemade Ingredients Talk

Thought I’d write up the main points from my presentation at Tales of the Cocktail.

Our panel was about Making Your Own Cocktail Ingredients.

The ingredients I covered were Swedish Punsch and Orgeat.

Four Main Reasons to Make Homemade Liqueurs and Syrups

1) Preservation. You’ve got a tree full of walnuts and the squirrels will eat them if you don’t do something with them.

2) Curiosity. When I first heard about Nocino, I was like, “Green walnut liqueur, how can that possibly work?” Green walnuts are incredibly bitter and stain anything they touch black. Then I continued reading, a bitter liqueur almost like an amaro. Cool. It can only be made during a month long window in the spring. Even cooler. It has to age for 40 days on the walnuts, and then another 40 days after sweetening before you can even drink it. The obscurist in me was fascinated. I knew I had to make it.

3) The products you want to use to make a particular cocktail are discontinued or incredibly hard to come by.

4) The easily available commercial products are not of the desired quality or at the desired cost.

A Few Rules

I have a few rules for myself when making liqueurs and syrups. First all ingredients are organic or no-spray. Preferably the fruit comes straight from the Farm or Farmers’ Market, no refrigeration. I only use Washed Raw Sugar or other natural sweeteners for all syrups or liqueurs.

Things to Consider

Before you embark on making liqueurs or syrups, you should be aware of some of the pitfalls.

First, they may not be cheaper than the commercial products you are replacing. Second, there’s a pretty good chance of failure at some point. Unless you can choke a failed liqueur down, there’s a pretty good chance you may pour a fair amount of ingredients, money, and spirits down the sink.

In addition, commercial producers have certain advantages over home producers of liqueurs and syrups.

They may have high quality, high proof base spirits to make their liqueurs from. Volume production allows commercial producers certain advantages. Purchasing liqueurs and syrups on the shelf guarantees you consistency and availability.

So to summarize, it isn’t a bad idea to pick a fight you can win.

Syrups, especially, are a great area where homemade can be fresher tasting and more interesting. The odds of you making an orange liqueur that is better than Cointreau or Grand Marnier, on the other hand, are pretty darn slim.


The OED gives the origin of the word Orgeat as the Latin word for Barley, “Hordeum”.

The first known published use of a related word in an English Text referred to a type of Barley used to make a beverage. This was some time around 1500.

The first known published use of “Orgeat” referring to a sweetened Barley, Melon Seed, and Almond Syrup was in J. Nott’s “Cook and Confectionary Dictionary” in 1723.

That the word “Orgeat” referrs to barley rather than almonds, suggests to me that Orgeat belongs to the family of steeped grain beverages common in nearly every civilization. The Egyptians had a beverage based on Sedge Kernels. The Spanish make beverages based on Sedge Kernels and rice. The English had Barley Water. The Scots made Oat Water. American Indians had whole classes of beverages based on corn. I’d imagine you could go so far as to include things like soy milk and some of the thin rice based gruels often served in Asia.

Let’s face it, grinding grain and boiling or steeping it in water is the easiest way to get some nutritional value from it. And if you really want to blow your mind, realize that if you add yeast to a thin solution, you get beer. If you add yeast to a thicker mix of finely ground flour, you get bread. If you make a thick paste and then cook it on a griddle, it is a tortilla or a cracker.

That’s how important these grain beverages are to civilization.

Making Orgeat

I’ve covered making Orgeat in a couple articles already on the blog, Orgeat–Tales Version and Orgeat? Almond Fudge?, so I won’t cover instructions in too much detail.

It is a bit of a pain, but really fairly simple. Crush almonds. Steep them in water. Strain out the solids. Sweeten the resulting liquid. But, as with all “simple” things, the devil is in the details. How are the almonds crushed? How long do they steep? How do you remove the solids? How sweet?

Aside from Tiki Drinks, like the Mai Tai and Fog Cutter, some well known drinks with Orgeat include the Japanese, the Momisette, Cameron’s Kick, and the famous New Orleans breakfast drink, Absinthe Suisesse.

Swedish Punsch

Swedish Punsch is a Batavia Arrack based liqueur popular in, obviously, Sweden. It hasn’t been commercially available in the US since the 1950s or 1960s. Until fairly recently, the only real way to get it was if you, or a friend, traveled to Sweden. Fortunately, in the last year or so, Haus Alpenz had begun selling a Batavia Arrack in the US, so it is now possible for the home enthusiast or bartender to make their own. Also, fortunately, the taxes in Scandinavia are so high, that there is a thriving home made liqueur and distillation tradition there, making it not too hard to come across recipes for Arrack Punsch of one sort or another.

Going through a few recipes, the traditional ingredients are: Batavia Arrack, Tea, Sugar, Spices, and some sour element. The sour element is usually some sort of citrus, but I’ve also seen recipes which include wine.

Most commercial Swedish Punsch, like the Carlshamm’s Flagg Punsch, are very lightly spiced and heavily sweetened. The couple I’ve tried are really more just Arrack Liqueur than anything else. There is a bit more variety and spice among the home recipes.

Making Punsch

As noted previously, for my homemade punsch, I usually employ two of Jerry Thomas’ Arrack Punch recipes in a sort of mash up. His Imperial Arrack Punch and United Service Punch. For details of the most recent version check this post: Underhill Punsch–Tales Version.

Steep thinly sliced citrus briefly in the spirit(s). At the same time, make an extra strong batch of tea. After making the tea, remove the tea leaves and sweeten with an equal volume of sugar. After the tea has cooled, remove the citrus from the liquor, and combine the tea syrup and infused spirits. Rest for at least 24 hours.

A few cocktails including Swedish Punsch are the Biffy, Boomerang, C.F.H., Diki-Diki, Doctor, Hundred Per Cent, Tanglefoot, and Welcome Stranger.

Other sources:

Orgeat Syrup article on Darcy O’Neil’s Art of Drink Website.
Orgeat article on Scottes’ Rum Pages.
Homeade Orgeat Syrup (French Barley Water) article on FXcuisine.
Orgeat, on eGullet.org.
Haus Alpenz
Swedish Punsch, A Source, on eGullet.org.

Orgeat–Tales Version

This time I’m following Francois Xavier’s Orgeat procedure from this blog post:

Homemade Orgeat Syrup (French Barley Water)

(My favorite part of the lovely pictures which accompany the recipe is that the author appears to be making orgeat in his/her pajamas.)

550 grams blanched and roughly chopped almond & (optional) apricot kernels
150 grams blanched and finely minced almonds & (optional) apricot kernels
3 litres of water
about 9 pounds of sugar (I like Florida Crystals)
1 cup Brandy or Cognac (I used Osocalis California Brandy)
2 teaspoons Orange Flower Water
1/4 oz Natural Almond Extract per litre

This makes a bit more than 4 litres (or a gallon.)
Special equipment: scale, cheesecloth, candy thermometer

To blanch almonds (thanks Paul!): Purchase whole raw almond (and optionally apricot) kernels. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water. Put on some good music, and rub the skins off each almond. It took me about the length of Nick Cave’s excellent new CD “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!” to remove the skins from 856 grams of almonds.

In regards Almond and Apricot Kernels, I had a bit over 2 pounds of Almonds and 2 ounces of Apricot kernels to start with. They were mixed together to blanch, so I’m not exactly sure how much of each ended up in the final mix.

Roughly chop 550 grams almonds with a big knife. Finely chop 150 grams of almonds with a big knife.

Add almonds and 600 grams of sugar to a pot. Add 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, cool, and leave to rest for 12 hours. Because I am paranoid, I put it in the fridge.

Strain through cheesecloth or, even better, a coarse nylon straining bag (available from beer supply stores).

Wash and sanitize the bottles you will be using to store your syrup. I don’t have a dish washer, so I wash them, rinse them, then place them in a cold oven. Turn the temperature to 200 degrees. When it reaches 200, I leave them in for 15 minutes. Kind of like an autoclave.

Weigh the strained liquid.

For every 500 grams of strained liquid, add 700 grams of sugar. My liquid weighed 2774 grams, so I added around 3500 grams of sugar.

Put the pot over low heat, and heat to dissolve sugar. Interestingly, Francois Xavier recommends not to boil it, as this may turn your orgeat into caramel. I brought it to the recommended 40 Centigrade and kept it there for about 15 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Leave the orgeat to cool. Then add the brandy, orange flower water, and almond extract.

Pour into the clean bottles.

Also, as Francis Xavier notes, “Real orgeat syrup will split after a few days in a thick, solid white layer of almond powder on top and syrup below. This is normal and happens with quality bought orgeat syrup such as the one I used to buy from Hédiard in Paris. All you need is insert a skewer in the bottle to break the top layer a bit, close and shake. This is really part of the fun in this product and a hallmark of quality orgeat syrup.”

Interestingly, perhaps because I am using florida crystals natural cane sugar, my orgeat came out even darker than Francois’.


Anyway, the best part about this recipe, is that you run almost no risk of over processing your almonds. With a food processor or a blender, it is very, very easy to start making almond butter, as I did last time. Almond fudge is cool, but it doesn’t really work for cocktails. Besides, unless you’re handicapped or suffering from carpal tunnel, there’s really no compelling reason to use a food processor for this small an amount of almonds.

Underhill Punsch II

In the quest to make a Swedish Punch Clone, I had combined two Jerry Thomas recipes and made a variation using Sri Lankan Arrack. While interesting, I later discovered it wasn’t very Similar to Swedish Punch.

I re-used the same procedure recently using Batavia Arrack.

This was what I did:

Underhill Punsch II

1 cup Appleton V/X Rum
1/2 cup Batavia Arrack
1 cup hot extra strong tea (2 tsp Peet’s Lung Ching Dragonwell tea brewed in 1 cup water)
1 cup sugar
1 lemon sliced thinly, seeds removed
1 lime sliced thinly, seeds removed

Put sliced lemon and lime in a resealable non-reactive container large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Pour Rum and Batavia Arrack over citrus. Cover and steep for 6 hours.

Dissolve sugar in hot tea and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.

After 6 hours, pour rum off of sliced citrus, without squeezing fruit.

Combine tea syrup and flavored rum. Filter and bottle in a clean sealable container. Age at least overnight and enjoy where Swedish Punch is called for.

The interaction between the Chinese green tea and the lime gives this an interesting flavor. One person who tried it compared it to the bitter greens they’d just had in their salad. Just on its own, at room temperature, this is a little much, as the intense bitter lime aftertaste tends to linger on the palate. Over ice, though, it is quite a pleasant beverage. I’m going to be interested to see how this variation mixes.

Orgeat? Almond Fudge?

First off, let me say that the websites which say that blanching almonds is as easy as…

Place almonds in a bowl.
Pour boiling water to barely cover almonds.
Let the almonds sit for 1 minute and no longer.
Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.
Pat dry and slip the skins off.

…are lying. Sure, maybe the skins of 1 in 10 almonds will “slip off,” but based on the last hour I have spent taking the skins off of 1/2 pound of almonds, painstakingly, with my fingernails, this is optimistic at best.

Shopping List:

1/2 pound raw almonds, preferably blanched
(1/2 oz Apricot Kernels, optional, blanched)
1/4 Cup Cognac or Brandy
1 tsp. Orange Flower Water

To make the cocktail ingredient called “Orgeat” you first make almond milk, and then use that almond milk to make syrup. You add sugar, about equal parts by volume, and boil until it reaches “syrup” stage or around 235 degrees Fahrenheit.

Almond milk is made in a similar way to coconut milk. I can’t quite decide if cracking a coconut, separating it from the brown skin, and grating it is less or more work than peeling almonds. It’s kind of a half a dozen of one, six of another kind of thing. Less coconuts, but difficult to find shelled coconut meat. I can say with a large degree of certainty, that you do not want to start with almonds in the shell, unless you are truly a masochist.

So you have a half pound of raw almonds which you have blanched and peeled or, if you were smart, you bought blanched and peeled. Then you put them in a blender or food processor and turn them into crushed almonds. Careful not to make butter here. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and continue processing. Let this sit for about an hour. Then you put them in a cheesecloth or nylon preserves straining bag and squeeze as much liquid as you can possibly get out of them. If you’re particular, you will then put the squeezed almonds back in the liquid, soak for another hour and repeat. Maybe even do this one more time.

Then measure the almond milk and put it on the stove. Add about an equal amount of sugar by volume, and heat until it reaches 235 degrees.

Mine looked like this when I pulled it off the stove. I didn’t really seem to have enough volume to get an accurate read from the candy thermometer, so I think I have something between almond syrup and almond fudge. Oops. Hey you can always add water back in. Damn, is it tasty though. Cool the almond syrup, add a quarter cup cognac (or brandy) and a teaspoon of orange flower water and you’re done. Stored in the fridge a syrup like this should keep fairly well for a month or so, as long as you don’t double dip.

It really is a fair amount of work, probably 2 hours minimum, but in the end you’ll have something so far exceeding the so-called orgeat from Fee’s, Monin, or Torani that you’ll kind of wonder why you had been paying money for them.

Acknowledgments: This is based on recipes published in this topic on eGullet, Orgeat. Special thanks to Jennifer Colliau at the Slanted Door for giving me a taste of her version of Orgeat, enlightening me to how much better the house made stuff could be.