Drinking like the Founding Fathers requires a strong constitution, and there’s no better place to start than with Fish House Punch, arguably one of the oldest clubhouse cocktails in the United States. The drink is reputed to have been invented at the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania (also known as the State in Schuylkill Fishing Club), which is the oldest fishing club in the United States. Established in 1732, the club declared itself a sovereign state, and members called themselves “citizens” of this tiny nation of anglers and cocktail aficionados (thus the name State in Schuylkill). It is not known whether the excessive enjoyment of Fish House Punch had a role to play in these grand proclamations.
The earliest written record of this punch is from 1744, in the notes of a Virginia official. He describes being served a “Bowl of fine Lemon Punch big enough to have Swimmed half a dozen of young Geese.” Also worthy of note is the large block of ice (about 4 pounds), which must sit stoutly in your punch bowl for a successful Fish House Punch.
The punch found fans in George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, and there’s even the occasional legend of it knocking out a historical hero or two. Were this to be true, it would come as no surprise for a concoction containing copious amounts of rum, cognac, and peach schnapps (or peach brandy), along with sugar, water, and lemon juice. After combining everything in a punch bowl, bartenders add an ice block or ice mold. Lemon slices float in this pond of spirits, the ice gradually melting to dilute an otherwise potent drink. Sometimes black tea or seltzer water is added as a mixer. This is a truly remarkable rum punch, with a long history of loyal (and famous) imbibers.
Where to Try It
A bar in Philly’s original Bookbinder’s building.