Growing up in the Southern US, punch was a “thing.” By that I mean, it is a special category of beverages that is served on special occasions and in social gatherings, often with sweet treats like cake or cookies. It even had its own special bowl and serving ladle with matching cups. Every Southern lady worth her salt had a box in the closet containing the punchbowl and its accoutrements at the ready in the event that she needed to prepare punch for a party or church reception. And punch was something I desperately wanted as a child as it looked all fruity and frothy and wonderful, but it was verboten as it contained alcohol…and apparently in copious amounts!
Punch actually comes from the English seafaring set as it was a common drink onboard, created to dilute the spirit alcohol so that sailors would not get too drunk to perform their duties. So while the Southern US likes to lay claim to punch, its origin springs from the transfer of English traditions in colonial times. And because of it’s unique history on both sides of the pond, there have even been books written about punch. In his interview in the New Yorker Magazine, David Wondrich (writer of the book Punch) describes, its history and the sense of community it inspired, “Punch began as a sailors’ drink, where everyone onboard—officers and ordinary seamen alike—would partake together. It didn’t always exercise that equalizing force, but it’s inherent in the format. A bowl of punch is a group effort, and people who choose not to partake find themselves at odds with the community. Most will put aside their standoffish ways and join in, but if they can’t or won’t, the nice thing is that nobody cares: all the more punch for us.” The community nature of punch as a drink seamlessly blends with the culture of Southern hospitality and being neighborly, so it’s no surprise that the tradition continued on in the regional Southern US.
My grandmother had a punch recipe that she adapted in the most wonderful of ways. When I used to visit on Sundays in the long, hot days of North Carolina summers, she always had refreshing, sparkling punch at the ready. This was vaguely scandalous (according to some) as punch clearly was appropriate for only certain festive and somewhat formal occasions – kind of like only being able to wear white clothing or shoes between Easter and Labor Day holidays. And Southern tradition is something that folks down South hold near and dear. But in many ways, including this one, Grandmother was unconventional. She thought the sparkling fruitiness was perfect for a hot day and devised a way to prepare it by the glass versus being constrained by the pomp and circumstance of the punch bowl ceremony.
I’ve further adapted my grandmother’s punch recipe and have had the joy of sharing it with a great many friends across the world. I like to think my grandmother, unconventional as she was, would take joy and pride in her memory being spread around the world in this most unique way. Cheers, Grandmother!
Grandmother’s Original Vodka Slushie / Punch Recipe
48 oz. pineapple juice
Small (6 oz.) frozen concentrated lemonade, diluted as directed
Small (6 oz.) frozen Orange Juice undiluted
2 cups vodka
Mix and freeze, stirring occasionally, until slushy. To serve in a punch bowl as traditionally served, you would put all the contents in the bottom of the bowl and top up the bowl with Sprite or 7-Up or Ginger Ale. But my Grandmother used to keep the frozen mixture in the freezer and serve by the glass with, by spooning the frozen mixture in the glass until about 3/4 full and topping up with soda.
Joanna’s Adapted Vodka Slushie Recipe
48 oz base juice – I like to use a mango, pineapple mixture since mango juice is widely available in Asia
Small (6 oz. ) frozen concentrated Limeade, diluted as directed
Small (6 oz. ) frozen concentrated Orange Juice
Toss in a handful of whatever frozen fruit is on hand, e.g. raspberries, cherries, peach
2 cups vodka
Now I like my slushies more in the granita style. So I break up the frozen mixture and scrape it with a fork and serve them straight up in a glass with no addition of soda. It can then be eaten like a granita with a spoon. They are a bit stronger this way, so be careful!
Note: The most important thing is the ratio of tart juice to sweet juice and the proportion of Vodka. With this in mind, the combinations are endless.
If you want to know more about punch, David Wondrich’s book is a very entertaining account of its history.Pin It