Not so much a punch as a haymaker, the earliest recorded mention of Philadelphia Fish House Punch was in 1744 when a Virginia diplomat visiting Philly described being served “a Bowl of fine Lemon Punch big enough to have Swimmed half a dozen of young Geese.” The venerable concoction— said to be a favorite of George Washington’s—was the official cocktail of the Schuylkill Fishing Company, the first angling club in the colonies. The group of Philadelphia worthies met in a large cottage on the Schuylkill River called the “Fish House” and reportedly began each meeting with a bowl of the potent punch. Nearly 300 years later, Philadelphia Fish House Punch is still going strong. Down in Austin, the bartenders at Small Victory serve up batches of the stuff using a recipe adapted from Jerry Thomas’ 1862 classic, How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion. It calls for oleo saccharum, a throwback syrup that involves macerating citrus peels in sugar, which historically has been mandatory in classic punches. As Thomas wrote, “To make punch of any sort in perfection, the ambrosial essence of the lemon must be extracted, by rubbing lumps of sugar on the rind.” To add brightness, Small Victory’s bartenders recommend adding a bottle of sparkling wine to the mix.
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