Thursday, June 11, 2015

hubba hubba (and :: the story of hub punch ::)

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XCVII) was picked by Stuart Putney of the PutneyFarm blog. The theme he chose was "Hometown Hooch," and he elaborated on the theme with his description of, "One of the best recent developments in the world of cocktails and spirits is the reemergence of regional, craft distillers. And we say 'reemergence' because 100+ years ago, before the twin scourges of Prohibition and virtual monopolization 'industrialization,' distilling was often a truly local endeavor. Not so long ago, if you wanted some booze, it was often made in your neighborhood and for the tastes of the locals. Sadly, for a few generations, that wasn't the case... But, quite happily, those days are back... There are literally hundreds of local and regional distillers making some seriously tasty spirits... and now is the time for our monthly online cocktail party to send them some love. Your quest is simple. Create a new cocktail, or refashion a classic, using your favorite 'hometown hooch'… A little local flavor or history on your 'hometown hooch' is very welcome."
While I thought of local rum producers like Privateer and Old Ipswich a/k/a Turkey Shore and local gin producers like GrandTen, I have already covered those distilleries via tours (see links) and written about their products a bunch here. Pondering the concept of "hometown hooch" made me recall a bottle I found at a local antiques mart back in March of 2013 for a spirit made locally back in the late 19th century, namely Hub Punch. The two other parts of the above label read:
Boston, May 1, 1879.
At the earnest solicitation of a number of our hotel patrons and personal friends we have decided to offer our Rum and Brandy Punch in bottles, an article that has a most excellent reputation, having been originally prepared by our senior member, July 4th, annually. -- C.H. Graves & Sons.

The foreign liquors and cordials forming the component parts of the Hub Punch are of our importation, and guaranteed strictly pure. To warrant genuineness see that our autograph label is over each cork, under tin foil capsule. Set the Punch on ice one hour before using, and on opening, use half water or lemonade. -- C.H. Graves & Sons.
Fast forward several months, and I received an email from Will Willis of Bully Boys Distillery here in Boston asking for permission to recreate Hub Punch. While I did unsuccessfully throw the idea to another distiller shortly after I found the bottle, I had completely forgotten about this find. As described in Mise Magazine and Boston Magazine, there was a link between the Bully Boys brothers and myself -- namely, bartender and writer for BostonApothecary Stephen Shellengberger. Stephen found my find too intriguing to let drop and forwarded the concept to Dave and Will Willis. Of course I gave them my blessing to recreate the stuff and was flattered that they would even consider asking me (much less namedrop Stephen and me in interviews).

While the bottled Hub Punch was made in Boston, the original recipe stemmed from upstate New York despite Boston being known as the "Hub." The old Hub House in Thousand Island, New York, was the debaucherous hotel, dance hall, and bar that served this punch in the 1870s and 1880s. The recipe was attributed to Bart Keether, a bartender from Oswego, New York. Luckily, the Graves distillery decided to produce a bottled version of the punch, for the Hub House burned down soon after in 1883. Despite the bounty of ads for the bottled punch in newspapers and magazines of the day, there was no record of the flavor profile of the original or bottled versions. The Willis brothers decided to work backwards using what little clues they had. They assessed the flavor and sweetness balance of the bottled version by how it was supposed to be drank (see second half of the label transcription above). And an advertisement they found gave hints about the fruit component involved. They decided to utilize classic orange and lemon peels in a rum base and take their own direction with raspberries. They also mixed in an assortment of herbs and spices of which I recall tasting a hint of anise. Yes, fast forward a few more months, and Will Willis was at my bar at Russell House Tavern with a prototype. I tinkered with it and discovered that it was no drop-in for Kronan Swedish Punsch but that it would work well in drinks in the same vein as perhaps St. George's Raspberry Liqueur. I am not sure if the Hub Punch they later brought to market was all that different from my prototype bottle, but I have to assume that it is pretty close.
When deciding what to do with the cordial for this event, I turned to the OnTheBar app's recipe database and found one from bartender Tom Hardy from Saloon here in Somerville, MA, called the Hubba Hubba.
Hubba Hubba
• 1 oz Bully Boy Hub Punch
• 3/4 oz Manzanilla Sherry (Lustau Dry Amontillado)
• 3/4 oz Lime Juice
• 1/2 oz Appleton Estate Rum (Smith & Cross)
• 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
• 2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)
Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Lacking both manzanilla and fino sherry at home, I opted for amontillado which seemed like it would work well with the fruit flavors here as well as be about as dry. And for a rum, I opted for a more funky-flavorful Jamaican rum, namely Smith & Cross, instead of Appleton. Once prepared, the Hubba Hubba offered a lime and raspberry aroma. The lime and berry notes continued on into the sip along with the sherry's grape. Finally, the swallow began with funky rum and dark cassis-like flavors from the nutty sherry and the punch.

So thank you to Stuart for picking the theme and running the show once again, and thanks to the rest of Mixology Monday for paying tribute to their hometown heroes and playing along with this event. Cheers!


Bridget said...

I just bought a bottle of this, and the raspberry + spices was great. The best cocktail we made of the night had the Hub punch, pyrat rum, lime juice, rhubarb syrup, bitters, and ginger beer. Delicious, and just perfect for summer.

Katie (aka GarnishGirl) said...

I've been wanting to try this stuff! I'll have to pick up a bottle.