Matthew Kelly / Supercall

The Jerry Thomas Experiment #18 Pine-Apple Punch

Whenever we start feeling cocky about our bartending skills, we tackle the weirdest recipe we can find in Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide. Turns out they did things differently back then.

Jerry Thomas loves an oleo saccharum. He doesn’t call it that, though. Still, when, in the Bon Vivant’s companion, JT writes, “to make punch of any sort in perfection, the ambrosial essence of the citrus must be extracted, by rubbing lumps of sugar on the rind,” we all know what the guy means.
But in this recipe, the Professor asked us for something we’d never seen before, a pineapple oleo saccharum. Purists will point out that it’s not exactly an oleo saccharum, but it’s close. It’s about halfway between an oleo saccharum and a syrup. Still, new one for us. The recipe calls for four “pine-apples, sliced,” about which the sage writes...

Put the pine-apple with one pound of sugar in a glass bowl, and let stand until the sugar is well soaked in the pine-apple.

After removing the butt, crown and exterior rind of four pineapples, we cubed the meat, added a pound of sugar, gave it a quick toss and left it to macerate. Half an hour passed and we returned to find an oozy, pulpy, delicious-smelling mess. The pineapple pieces had gone completely to mush. We were not expecting this.

After that it simply says

Add all other ingredients, except the Champagne.

Those items being…

1 pint Jamaican rum
1 do. Brandy
1 gill of Curaçao
Juice of 4 lemons

Simple enough. We added Appleton’s Estate Reserve―a Jamaican rum―and a bottle of Pierre Ferrand Grand Cru brandy along with the lemon juice and curaçao.

Let this mixture stand in ice for about an hour, then add the Champagne.

An hour later, the cubes of ice had melted, a damp frost had formed on the sides of the punch bowl and a thick, pulpy foam had accumulated on the surface of the punch. The recipe doesn’t say anything about straining (or for that matter, about pineapple breaking down in the presence of sugar). Staying true to the letter of the scripture, we let it be. In goes the Champagne.

Next up,

Place large block of ice in the centre of the bowl, and ornament it with loaf sugar, sliced orange, and other fruits in season.

Before granulated sugar was commercially available, processed sugarcane was sold as loaf sugar, a rock hard, molded cone. The loaf was broken off with nippers into chunks that could be dissolved with boiling water, or muddled to granular form.  Mr. Thomas calls for his Pine-apple Punch to be garnished with nipped chunks of this archaic sugar, which we assume could be eaten whole or would eventually dissolve. Saying a prayer to Wilford Brimley (the god of diabeetus), we tossed in a couple of sugar cubes and hoped for the best. They immediately disintegrated and fell to the bottom of the punchbowl.

The finished punch was a vivid yellow, thanks to its high pineapple glop quotient, with fresh raspberries dancing in the foam like a flamenco dancer in a field of tulips. Tulips I say!

Per JT’s dictum, we served the punch to the staff in Champagne glasses. The first sip offered sweet-tart pineapple notes which brought out the funk in our Jamaican rum over the viscous, sawdusty mouthfeel.

There were issues with the mouthfeel.

Every sip started well, with bright, layered flavors, but was then followed by a wad of denuded pineapple fibers that clogged the mouth and made swallowing a chore. Not a great way to enjoy a cocktail. The flavor was amazing, but there’s no way anyone would want to drink this.

Which brings us to a confession, dear reader: we violated the prime directive. We departed the text. We strained the punch. In our defense, we know Jerry Thomas owned a strainer, and this drink is straight up un-imbibable without straining.

That and the fact that the clarified version of our Pine-Apple Punch was astounding, to the point of being dangerously chuggable.

We know it is assuming a lot, but we are going to go out on a limb and say that Jerry Thomas did not intend for his customers to chew his cocktails. And that proof-readers may have been in short supply in 1862.