Drinkology: Cape Fear Punch

The kiddies get to have their sugar-fueled costume parties, but adults looking to get into the “spirit” this Halloween might want to try the more complex and balanced flavors of a traditional punch. Originally, a true punch kept to a reasoned ratio using the 5 components: 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak and blended spices to create a harmonious and easily quaffable, albeit high proof, cocktail. The Cape Fear punch is a classic and the secret recipe comes from the gentleman’s club of the same name, purportedly the oldest in the South, founded in 1866. Containing rye whiskey, Cognac and Jamaican rum, it packs quite a…ah… punch, but those who may be adverse to brown liquor will be in for a treat. Cut with green tea, seltzer, lemons and oranges, this punch lacks a boozy taste, and has just the right balance of sweet and sour.

(makes 1 1/4 gallons or 40 4oz drinks)

For the base:
750 ml rye whiskey
750 ml water
1/2 cup raw sugar
3 bags green tea
375 ml rum (preferably Jamaican)
375 ml Cognac
4 whole lemons

For the punch:
2 small oranges, thinly sliced
4 small lemons, thinly sliced
2 (750 ml) bottles sparkling wine or Champagne
1 liter seltzer or sparkling water
Ice block (no cubes)
Freshly grated nutmeg

For the base:
Boil the water, add sugar and stir till warm (190ºF). Place the tea bags in the water and steep for 3 minutes.

Add the tea, rum, Cognac and whiskey into a 4qt container. Zest the lemons, add the skins and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Reserve zested lemons in the refrigerator.

For the punch:
Strain the base into a large punch bowl. Juice the reserved lemon and add. When ready to serve, stir in the oranges, lemons, sparkling wine and seltzer. Add the ice block and serve with freshly grated nutmeg. (For a spookier version, freeze water in a rubber glove and then remove the glove to create a ghoulish floating ice hand.)