One hot (well, hot for London, anyway) July afternoon in 1835, the English humorist Theodore Hook stepped into The Garrick Club.
Not just anyone could do that, since The Garrick was (and still is) one of the city’s most exclusive clubs. Its members are a peculiar assortment of actors and such, and their patrons: the poor but amusing and the rich and aristocratic. Fortunately, Hook was the former.
Now, according to a witness there that afternoon, Hook was “in that equivocal state of thirstiness which it requires something more than common to quench.” Also fortunately for Hook, The Garrick’s manager happened to be in the barroom at the time. Stephen Price was a New Yorker, a bit on the coarse side to be sure, but possessed with a little secret for making a truly quenching summer drink. (As any resident of the five boroughs knows, August in that city without the aid of such things is unendurable.)
So Price set to ordering the Garrick’s barman to do this and that, and next thing Hook knew there was a jug in front of him. Gin punch. We can’t say exactly what his reaction was, but I suspect he was unimpressed. Englishmen had been drinking gin punch for a century—poor ones at first, then merchants and finally dukes and admirals. They knew the concoction as a simple mix of alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and a touch of spice. Nothing to it.
But here’s where Price’s particular trick came into play. What if you sweetened the punch with some maraschino liqueur along with the sugar? And, more importantly, what if, instead of just plain water, you diluted it with chilled soda water? Hook had a sip. He finished the jug. “A second followed—a third, with the accompaniment of some chops—a fourth—a fifth—a sixth—at the expiration of which Mr. Hook went away to keep a dinner engagement at Lord Canterbury’s.”
Mr. Hook was certainly a better man than I.
- 4 lemons
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 750 ml gin
- 4 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur or Grand Marnier
- 24 ounces seltzer water
Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith.
Muddle the peels with the sugar in a 3-quart pitcher or punch bowl and let stand for 30 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the gin and maraschino liqueur or Grand Marnier, and stir.
Fill the pitcher or bowl halfway with ice and add the seltzer or club soda.
Stir again and serve in individual punch or rocks glasses.