New Year's Punch That Packs a Wallop

(Banquet photo courtesy of Georgia Historical Society)

A traditional (and potent) champagne punch from Savannah

Looking to start the New Year with a bang? Take a cue from the fine folks in Savannah, Georgia, who have been whipping up a notorious champagne cocktail known as Chatham Artillery Punch since, some say, the colonial period. The punch, originally concocted by Georgia’s oldest military unit, the Chatham Artillery, was mixed in large horse buckets and served at celebrations, including a presidential visit from James Monroe in 1819. With a recipe that calls for a mix of champagne, rum, brandy, and bourbon, it’s no wonder the punch has been called a “suave and deceitful brew.”

Over the years, many variations and additions have been made to the drink, but Damon Lee Fowler, author of the Savannah Cookbook, has put together a recipe that's very close to the original (no horse bucket required). But be warned, Fowler says that the “innocent tasting but lethal” Chatham Artillery Punch has some morning-after recoil. Best cook up a batch of Hoppin’ John and collard greens.

Chatham Artillery Punch
Makes 25 servings

2 ounces of green tea leaves
4 large lemons
1/2 pound turbinado or light brown sugar
1 quart dark rum
1 quart brandy
1 quart rye or bourbon whiskey
3 bottles champagne

1. Soak the tea leaves 8 hours or overnight in a quart of cold water. Strain the liquid from the leaves into a large container that will hold all the spirits (use wooden, porcelain, or glass; do not use plastic or metal). Juice 3 lemons through a strainer into the tea and add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved.

2. Stir in the rum, brandy, and whiskey, cover, and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or for up to a week. It’s pretty well indestructible at this point.

3. When ready to serve the punch, thinly slice 1 lemon. To serve the punch, allow 6 cups of the base for every bottle of champagne. First pour the brew over an ice ring or large block of ice in a punch bowl. Add the sliced lemon and swirl in the champagne, being careful not to disturb its effervescence. Serve with caution.

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