Bostonian Society Rum Punch

Earlier this year, the Bostonian Society (stewards of the Old State House and operators of the museum of colonial Boston therewithin) held a rum history and tasting event featuring local distillers. I had the pleasure of delivering a short talk on the history of rum and rum production around Boston, and the perhaps-even-greater pleasure of putting together a punch to go with the tasting.

The goal was to offer something historically-oriented, either using or based on punch recipes from the 1700s. And the rum I had to work with was the Liberty Tree from Astraluna, a distillery in Medfield that I hadn't heard of before.

Their rum is fascinating. There are notes that seem like Cognac, others that seem like whiskey, and bits of raisin, honey, vanilla, and the nutty smell of toasted olive oil. I knew right away that it'd be a good fit for a punch recipe with eighteenth-century overtones. Those punches often used a mixed base of brandy and rum (the storied Philadelphia Fish House Punch being the most famous example), and the Liberty Tree's flavor profile flirts with both of those roles.

Long story short, the punch came out great. In fact, the Bostonian Society elected to use it again for their annual holiday party last night. By request of several of the guests at that event, I'm publicizing the recipe to make at home. There's been a lot of demand for the Liberty Tree rum this holiday season (it's really a perfect rum to have around Christmas), and I know it's sold out in a couple of places, but I recommend picking up a bottle if you can find one. And, y'know, giving this recipe a try:

Bostonian Society Punch
12 parts. Tea-Infused Liberty Tree Rum*
3 parts Oleo Saccharum Mixture**
2 parts Lemon Juice
1 part Honey
Combine all ingredients in advance and allow them to marry. Serve in small, elegant cups full of ice, from a large, ornate punchbowl full of ice.

*Tea-Infused Rum (Scale to Volume Needed)
2 oz. Liberty Tree Rum
1 bag Twining's English Breakfast Tea
Combine and steep mixture for ten minutes, then discard the tea bags. (Beyond that point, the bitterness increases much more rapidly than the tea flavor does.) Don't worry if you end up with more than you need: the mixture won't go bad.

**Oleo Saccharum Mixture (Scale to Preferred Size)
1 Whole Lemon
2 oz. Sugar
Warm Water
Peel lemons. Toss peels with sugar and let them sit for 2-3 hours; this will extract the lemon oils. Add enough water to dissolve any remaining sugar (no more than 2 oz. per lemon), then strain the lemon peels out of the resulting mixture. Use the peeled lemons to provide the juice for the main recipe.

In practice, both times it's been made we've put some of the lemon peels back into the bowl once all the ingredients were combined. This isn't necessary, but if you like your punches lemony, go for it; it's a forgiving enough process that you're unlikely to overdo it.

One other thing I've noticed: This is a strong drink, and many people will prefer to cut it down with something. A bit of water would be entirely reasonable. Last night some people were asking for it topped with ginger ale or prosecco; I didn't try either, but I can see how both would work. If I wanted to cut it down, personally, and wanted something more interesting than water, I might try it with a bit of sparkling cider.

Liberty Tree is normally available at the Roche Bros. in Downtown Crossing (that's right, they have a liquor license!), but was out of stock at last check. It is, however, in stock at Gordon's in Waltham as of a quarter to five on Friday the 2nd. Give the AstraLuna folks a call at (844) 289-5862 to see if it's being sold in your neighborhood. Distribution is just in Massachusetts for the time being.

Those of you who live out of state but still want to try this recipe might try substituting a 1:2 mixture of your preferred Cognac or blended brandy and your favorite amber mixing rum – Privateer, Appleton, and Mt. Gay come to mind – for the Liberty Tree to get a similar result. Be sure to let me know how your punches turn out!