Thursday, April 8, 2010

punchius pilate

My friend Matt called upon me again to make a punch for his party. The last time he made that request, I assembled the classic Xalapa Punch. This time it was for his 10th Annual Easter Party which every year has a tequila theme. Not sure how tequila relates to the Easter story -- perhaps agave look like a crown of thorns (*) -- but who am I to question this tasty tradition? The problem was that he wanted a tequila punch, and both the classic and more modern books in my library are surely lacking in this sort of recipe. So it was time to improvise and channel my punch-fu. Furthermore, he asked for it to be refreshing, so a challenging flavor profile was out of the question.

Thinking of what would go well with tequila, I was drawn to the idea of a smokey tea, and Lapsang Souchong was one that we had in the house. The tea concept evolved into a tea syrup that was spiced with clove, cinnamon, and ancho chili powder. For citrus, I decided to soften the flavor by using mainly grapefruit juice with a half part of lime juice to add some crispness while leaving the drink refreshing. I had been toying around with using a liqueur to add some more flavor to the mix with ideas for Drambuie, St. Germain, or Maraschino. Instead, I opted for a tawny port for some richness besides adding a little Sangre de Cristo symbolism to the punch. My original idea was for soda water to lighten up the mix; however, in the testing stage, the drink was a little too dry. Instead, I switched the soda water to ginger ale to work double duty to donate bubbles and sweetness.
750 mL Reposado Tequila (Lunazul)
8 oz Spiced Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup (**)
8 oz Grapefruit Juice (Pink)
4 oz Lime Juice
6 oz Port (Sandeman Tawny)
500 mL Ginger Ale

Chill syrup and ginger ale in refrigerator and tequila in the freezer. Mix in bowl, add ice ring (***), and add gingerale. Stir gentle, and serve.

(**) Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
1. Boil water and measure out 6 oz. Add Lapsang Souchong tea (I added 3 tea bags to 12 oz for a double batch) and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the tea is steeping, muddle 1-2 cloves (I used 3 for a double batch), add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chili powder, and the half the zest of a grapefruit.
3. Measure out 6 oz (by volume) of sugar. Add an ounce or two to the zest/spice mixture and muddle to extract the zest's oil.
4. After the tea is steeped, add in all sugar, zest, and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover and let sit for a few hours. Strain through a tea towel and store in refrigerator. Makes around 8 oz of syrup.

(***) Ice ring: Use a metal bundt cake pan, add a centimeter or so of water and let freeze. Add citrus slices and add enough water to cover the slices and let freeze. Add another centimeter or so of water and let freeze. Repeat layers until pan is full. I used a layer of orange (rings cut in quarters) over a layer of lemon (rings cut in quarters as well).
Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the punch and by the time I thought of it, it was mainly gone. Yes, it went quick -- a double portion of the recipe above. Moreover, the ice ring garnered a few Martha Stewart comments thrown my way. The popular name for the punch ended up being Punchius Pilate which kept with the holiday theme. I do regret not getting organized sooner and ordering plastic crucifixes or other to freeze in the ice or to use as garnish.

In retrospect, the spice mixture could have been augmented. Perhaps doubling the cinnamon, ancho chili powder, and grapefruit zest might have added more flavors on the swallow. The clove seemed at the right level to me though. Then again, no one complained that the punch was boring or flavorless so perhaps the levels were just right.

(*) I apologize in advance if any of this offensive to your religion. I know only enough about Christianity to be dangerous, so there is a decent chance that some of it strayed from the intended light-hearted holiday humor into something else. And after 2 or 3 glasses of this punch, I would hope that bygones would be bygones.

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