My respect for Alton Brown does sometimes border on idolatry. Along with Harold McGee, Jeffrey Steingarten, Julia Child, and John Thorne his work is part of what I consider the essential canon for those wanting to know more about the science of cooking from a North American-European perspective. Good Eats is one of the last respectable Food Network shows and I can’t count the number of techniques I have learned from it that I realise I probably would have had more difficulty learning from a book. Everything from crepes to brining.
Sometimes Alton puts out episodes that are obviously more about satisfying one of his side interests than a clamouring demand for information on a critical food topic. All his cocktail episodes (ones with “raising the bar” in the title) fall into this category. I have used and enjoyed his eggnog recipe and was particularly intrigued by the recipe for Cape Fear punch on the most recent installation in the Raising the Bar series. To go with the appetisers (smoked salmon on homemade bread) that I made for my Terry Fox meal on Labour Day weekend I decided to slightly adapt this recipe in a fashion appropriate for the cottage’s island.
The rye and rum are both good references to the island’s history during Prohibition as the hiding spot for at least one white-lightning still. The cider is appropriate because of all the wild apple trees that dot the fields. Finally, I think the tea, as well as creating a nice flavour counter-point also evokes the mistaken description of the island’s first recreational visitors as religious men wanting a a sanctuary from women–they actually just wanted somewhere to fish in peace.
Punch is, I believe, one of the only two or three alcoholic drinks that contain more than three ingredients but is still acceptable for mature, adult consumption. This drink is pretty dangerous–the only non-alcoholic ingredients are tea and ice and even the fizz comes from sparkling wine instead of soft drinks–and while the flavours blend and mellow with each other it doesn’t have any of the cloying sweetness that is common for concoctions where “you can’t taste the booze”. It’s definitely not the sort of punch to serve at a church social on a hot afternoon but better start for starting a party properly or steadying one’s nerves for a midnight run across the New York border.
Thorah Island Punch
Adapted from Alton Brown’s Cape Fear Punch
- a 26-er of Canadian whisky
- a bottle of local sparkling wine
- one litre of hard apple cider
- the heal of a bottle of rum
- 750 ml strong black tea, brewed and cooled as much as possible
I found a campy pitcher with a matching set of tumblers (each part of the set has one of those wicker diapers, obviously) that I wanted to use for the punch. Alton offers the excellent idea of freezing a balloon full of water to create a slow-melting large ice cube. There was no way I was going to get that into the quarter-size neck opening of my pitcher so I poured about a cup of water into the pitcher and left in the freezer, tipped on its side, overnight. My pitcher is too small to handle a whole recipe at once so I made it in two batches and even you have a bowl big to make it all at once consider working in batches to keep the ice from melting too much and the wine from losing too much of its sparkle.