The Story Of Charles Dickens' Theatrical Cocktail

Punch is considered the mother of cocktails. It is believed by drink historian, David Wandrich, that the name "punch" is in reference to the broad and squat half barrels called "puncheons" (via Difford's Guide), which punch was most often stored and served from about 1600 and on. Nobody knows for sure, but it is speculated that the drink was invented by a British citizen during the occupation of India and was brought to the United Kingdom soon after. 

Punch was wildly popular right up until the Victorian era which signaled an end to its reign in tap houses and social events. In response, the famed writer, Charles Dickens, wrote a piece titled "A Bowl of Punch," bemoaning the drink's flagging popularity. But that was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to Dickens' obsession with the drink. Dickens absolutely adored punch and even created a few different recipes himself, one of which he named the Smoking Bishop which he made reference to at the end of A Christmas Carol (via YouTube).

A performer at heart

Dickens would bring his personal punch bowl to parties and narrate each of his steps and ingredients to his audience while making it. He reportedly did this quite often and with more than a little flare, according to historian Pen Vogler (via Atlas Obscura). Dickens was a writer to his core and that translated into his punch-making. Some would call Dickens dramatic when it came to his cocktails, but we prefer the term passionate.

Luckily, a few of Dickon's infamous punch recipes have survived because he shared them in letters with his friends. His ingredients are pretty basic for a 19th-century mixer: a blend of rum (or brandy), lemon, sugar, spice (usually nutmeg), and hot water. But, to Dickens, punch was a symbol of togetherness and celebration, two things we can infer he enjoyed very much based on the themes in his stories. According to Simon & Schuster, the characters in Dickens' books are perpetually offering food and punch to one another to symbolize friendly feelings and community.

There is no doubt that Charles Dickens adored and did his best to preserve the tradition of punch during his time, and we can't help but want to celebrate his commitment to his favorite beverage. So, perhaps this holiday season, you'll make a bowl for your friends and raise a toast to the literary icon, Dickens.