The Origins of Punch
Scholars have generally believed that the likeliest derivation of the word "punch" as an alcoholic drink is from the Hindi word पंज panch or panj, meaning five. Many of the early descriptions of punch had five ingredients.
Of course the native word for five would have been familiar to the traders and other employees of the British East India Company.
The Punjab region was named for its five rivers, though from Persian rather than Hindi.
The panchamrita is the five-fold divine nectar used as an offering to the gods during Hindu pujas. It often consists of honey, sugarcane juice, cow's milk, yoghurt and ghee. Sometimes it has other ingredients, occasionally more than five.
The famous Indian five-spice powder is called paanch masaala or panch phoran. Not to be confused with the Chinese five-spice powder wŭ xiāng.
Another use of the word panch is in panchadhatu or panchaloha, the alloy of five metals used in India for sacred statues. One version is made with gold, silver, copper, zinc and iron. The five metals represent the five Hindu great elements. The word punch or panch in Anglo-Indian usage denoted a panchayat or local council of five members.
Porcelain Punch Bowl, c. 1770. Worcester Porcelain Factory
More after the break.
Punch appears to have been an invention of the employees of the British East India Company while stationed in India. At the least, it was enthusiastically taken up by them soon after its invention. It was very quickly adopted by sea-farers of all Western European nations. In the East Indies it was made with arrack distilled from palm wine. In the West Indies it was made with rum. In Britain it was made with brandy. In the 20th century it became known across the world. In this article I am only going to cover the first century of its existence.
The American author and professional drinker David Wondrich said that:
One guy said it comes from the Indian word for 'five' because it had five ingredients. Unfortunately, that guy was only in India for a little bit and it was a guess. He never talked to any Indians about it...I quote from John Fryer below. Fryer was the "guy" alluded to, who had a degree from Cambridge and was considered to be a skilful and experienced surgeon. Fryer produced a book of 427 pages reproducing his letters detailing his extensive travels over 7 years in India and 2 years in Persia. From his writings we gather he had a keen interest in alcohol.
Letter IV mentioned punch and was the first source we have for an origin of the name punch. Letter IV was written and sent in very late 1676 or early 1677. At that point Fryer had been in India for 3½ years. I think that is more than "a little bit". It might even have been within living memory of some punch-drinkers from 1632, when we first read of the word punch. Though perhaps not, considering the high mortality of Europeans in India. Fryer does not say that his statement was a guess.
In 1698, John Fryer's traveller's tales were published as A New Account of East-India and Persia, in Eight Letters. Being Nine Years Travels, Begun 1672. And Finished 1681. Describing the products made in Goa he commented on a product of what is now Nerul, a village on the coast of Goa at the mouth of the Mandovi River:
At Nerule is made the best Arach or Nepa de Goa, with which the English on this Coast make that enervating Liquor called Paunch (which is Indostan for Five) from Five Ingredients; as the Physicians name their Composition Diapente; or from Four things, Diatesseron.
The nipa palm provides a sugary sap from its flower stalk.
The sap is one of the sources of palm wine or toddy, distilled into arrack.
Here seen growing in its preferred shallow sea water off Sarawak.
Photographed by (and thanks to) berniedup. Taken from Wikipedia.
Fryer records that he spoke to Indians quite a lot in his travels. However, it is generally thought that it would have been the British who invented and named the drink rather than the Indians. That does not mean the name could not have come from an Indian language. The British in India had varying degrees of knowledge of the local languages. However, even if their job was not trade, everyone from sailors and soldiers to the highest ranks would have known the numbers in the local language so they could buy or sell from the locals in the correct amounts. The exotic new drink needed an exotic new name.
The idea that the word punch comes from "puncheon" is tempting as a puncheon was a barrel for wine, spirits or oil in the 17th century. However a puncheon contained 84 gallons (over 300 litres). At about 1½ times the size of a standard modern bath that is somewhat bigger than the usual punchbowl.
Some support for the derivation from panch meaning five is given by the report from 1629 of another drink made from arrack and limes. Peter Mundy was a Cornishman from Penryn who wrote an account of his travels in Europe and Asia. He had spent 1628 to 1634 in India employed by the British East India Company. This part describing the British in Surat was compiled from his notes in 1634. The drink he mentioned appears to be named from the Hindi चार बखरा chaar bakhara, meaning four parts.
Our stronge Drinck is Racke, like stronge water, next a kinde of beere made of Course Sugar and other ingredients, pleasant to the taste and wholesome, but many tymes water. There is sometimes used a Composition of Racke, water, sugar and Juice of Lymes called Charebockhra.
The addition of nutmeg to alcoholic drinks would not have been a revolutionary idea. Chaucer mentioned the addition of nutmeg to ale in about 1390. Many other spiced alcoholic drinks were drunk in Britain over the years - including hippocras, lambswool and wassail.
The nutmeg was the main reason for the existence of the Dutch and East India Companies. The price of nutmeg in Europe rose incredibly when it was touted as a cure for plague. Before 1512 the nutmeg and clove trade from the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) supplying Asia, Africa and Europe was carried on entirely by Islamic and other Asian traders. The Portuguese muscled into the nutmeg trade when they found out where Banda was located. The Dutch and British then tried to take over and had bloody wars over the lucrative trade. A few pounds of nutmeg could set a sailor up for life if he got back to Europe alive. Massive fortunes were made when a ship survived the passage back to Europe with a cargo of spices. Very dirty tactics were employed by all sides.
To maintain their monopoly, the Dutch restricted the production of nutmeg to the tiny islands of Banda. The nutmegs were treated with heat, sea water and lime before they were sold. This treatment prevented the nutmeg seed from germinating. The Dutch East India Company found it more difficult to prevent competing merchants visiting the larger islands. So the Dutch destroyed the trees that grew naturally on the other Molucca islands such as Damar. The seeds were spread naturally from island to island by a large fruit-eating pigeon called the nutmeg bird, blue-tailed or elegant imperial pigeon (Ducula concinna).
Dutch monopoly policies almost led to the extinction of the nutmeg when a violent typhoon struck Banda at the same time as an earthquake and seaquake on the 2nd of April 1778. The nutmeg orchard on Pulu Ai had "not even 5 left standing" out of 1000 trees. A recent archaeological dig on Pulau Ay found the earliest known human use of nutmeg, with traces on potsherds from 3,500 years ago. Traces of other plants were found on the same sherd, including purple yam and sago.
This disaster was followed in 1780 by the start of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. The Dutch East India Company was nationalised in 1796 and wound up in 1799. Nutmegs were the inspiration for the start of the Dutch East India Company and a lack of nutmegs helped end it.
The Italian traveller Pietro della Valle teased us in his account of a stay at the English House in Combrù, now Bandar Abbas in Iran. They celebrated in the evenings toward the end of the year 1622 with good conversation and a drink called "larkin", which he found to be exquisite. His hosts told him that the drink was very trendy in Java and all the southern islands of the Far East. He learned how to mix larkin and was looking forward to taking the recipe back to Italy. Pietro did not describe the ingredients. All we know is that it contained strong spirits and was a bit too strong for drinking with every meal.
I found an Italian Dictionary from 1652 that included a drink called Lácchia, made with honey and spices. I have not been able to find any other reference to this drink.
The drink from Java might have been named for a person called Larkin. There was a Chief Factor of the British East India Company at Pattania (now Pattani in Thailand) from 1610 called Robert Larkin. The British East India Company were attempting to open trade with Japan. Larkin died in 1616 at the British trading post in Nagasaki.
The name of the drink larkin might be from Javanese larih or Malay larih-larahan meaning "pledging a drink". However, in old Javanese lahaṅ is sugar-palm sap and kilaṅ is a word for fermented sugar drinks. They also used arak to mean distilled liquors, as so many did in Asia. The drink may have simply been named after its alcoholic ingredient, perhaps a transformation of arak kilaṅ or arak lahaṅ.
The OED has the earliest use of punch in the sense of an alcoholic drink in 1600, as "punch-pot". The source was the Will of Robert Bedingfeilde or Bedingfeild of Ditchingham, Norfolk, dated 25th of November 1600 (National Archive ID: PROB 11/96/343). Robert described those items he bequeathed to a daughter of his third wife Ann Appleyard. The daughter's name was written clearly several times as Phillip. History has her as Philippa. Phillip would inherit on reaching 21 years, or on the day of her marriage if she was at least 18 years of age. Robert left her five hundred pounds in lawful English money, a dozen silver spoons and some other items. The first item described after the money was
"the p[a]rc[e]ll guilt paunche pot given at her Christninge by her grandmother Appleyarde."
Even with the prevailing alcohol-positive attitudes of the 16th century it seems a little odd for granny to have given her granddaughter a large drinking bowl for a christening present. It also seems unusual for a vessel to be named for a drink that is not mentioned in surviving records until over 30 years later and 7,000 miles away.
An alternative explanation is that "paunche" was descriptive of the decoration of the pot. The design could have been produced by the use of a punch. A partially-gilded container with a punchwork design makes more sense to me. Compare the first use of punch to mean a tool for metalwork, recorded by the OED as from around 1430:
j grete bolle of silver covered, chased wt ponches..j cuppe covered of silver, chased wt ponches.
The earliest surviving descriptions (rather than just mentions) of "punch" are in French, Dutch and German. They use a range of words for punch including (in order of publication, not when the author heard the term):
While bolleponge is believable as a transformation of "bowl of punch", palepunsen and palepuntzen are less obvious. It has been suggested that they were simply very light in colour, so "pale punch".
I think these versions could have come from pala, the name of nutmegs throughout the Malay Peninsula and Archipelago. I have no evidence for this except that nutmeg was usually used in punch and the name palepuntzen is similar to "pala punch".
Though the islands of the Moluccas had their own languages, Malay was used as a trading language. The first book to include palepunschen/palepunzen is the 1658 Mandelslo book I quote below. The OED claims the first is palepunsen (1651) but says this is from the source of the Mandelslo English translation published in 1662. I could not find the word used in the only edition of Mandelslo I could find from 1651, though I did just skim it as I don't know Dutch. If you want to read it for yourself it is here.
The English translation of Mandelslo's Voyages from 1669 named the nutmeg as palla in the language of the inhabitants of the Banda Islands, where it grew. The name palla was known to the Portuguese many years before, as it is recorded in 1567 by Garcia de Orta, a Jewish doctor, herbalist and naturalist.
The closest I could find to punch in Malay was panchar, to gush out, to pour out or to be dashed out with force. This could be descriptive of the preparation process where the ingredients of the punch were poured together into a large bowl. Though Malay also uses pancha to mean "five".
In 1632, Robert Addams was Lieutenant of the fort at Armagon (120 miles north of Chennai on the South East Indian coast) when he sent a letter to Thomas Colley, a merchant at Pettapolli (modern Nizampatnam in Andhra Pradesh, about 240 km (150 miles) north of Armagon):
Thanks for having treated with the agent for his going to Bantam. Is very glad he has so good company as Mr. Cartwright, and hopes they will keep a good house and drink punch by no allowance.
This last phrase has been taken as a warning that whoever is sharing the house with Mr Cartwright expects that the house will be abstemious, sober and orderly. However, the phrase "by no allowance" means "freely", "without hindrance", "without rationing" or "without need for permission". See "at no allowance" in the OED. This agent was hoping for a party house and a bottomless punchbowl.
I believe the agent referred to in the letter was Thomas Woodson. Woodson was an agent at Bantam, now called Banten, in western Java. Woodson had sent a letter to Colley the previous day, appearing to refer to his new housemate:
...this piece of paper which they did wet with a cup of sack [strong Spanish or Canary wine] to his health and Mr Cartwright's before blotting it with ink. Is glad he has met with a friend and place so to his mind; questionless such happinesses many times add many days unto a man's life.Woodson mentioned drinking with Cartwright and Colley in another letter, dated the 24th of November 1632. Thomas Woodson died in 1634, in debt to the British East India Company and others.
Nutmeg grater with carnation motif, silver and steel.
Boston, Massachusetts 1705–10 Maker: William Cowell Sr.
Dimensions: 2 9/16 x 3/4 in. (6.5 x 1.9 cm); 1 oz. 1 dwt. (31.9 g)
Boston, Massachusetts 1705–10 Maker: William Cowell Sr.
Dimensions: 2 9/16 x 3/4 in. (6.5 x 1.9 cm); 1 oz. 1 dwt. (31.9 g)
1658 saw the publication of Beschryvingh van de gedenkwaerdige zee- en landt-reyze, deur Persien naar Oost-Indien... written by Adam Olearius from the reports of Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo, a young lad from Schleswig-Holstein, of his travels in Persia and the East Indies in 1638-1639.
Description of Surat:
That's why every year many Englishmen and Dutchmen die, of 100 people often no more than 50 are left: And this affects the English most because they are of a softer nature than the Dutch. There are also many that ruin themselves with a drink called Palepunschen; the stuff self-made from strong brandy/lemon [or lime] juice/sugar and scoops of water mixed by one another of them; the stuff makes them quickly drunk, causing hot fevers and the red runs so that people fall there like flies and die if not suited to it.
In the original Dutch:
Hier is ongezonde Lucht eensdeels van wegen de groote onverdraaglijke hitte anderdeels van wegen de menigerley winden die alle daag verandert worden. Daarom komt het dagt 'er jaarlijks veel Engelschen en Hollanders sterven want van 100 menschen blijvender dikwijls geen 50 over : En dit treft d'Engelschen meest om datze weecker van natuur zijn als de Hollanders. Daar zijnder ook veel die haar zelven met een drank Palepunschen genoemt bederven ; de zelve wort van sterken Brandewijn/Citroenzap/Suyker en Hoozen-water onder malkander gemengt gemaakt ; de zelve is hitzig maakt haastig dronken veroorzakende heete koortzen en rooden loop zoo dat de menschen daar heenen vallen als de vliegen en sterven als men niet wel op haar past.Description of the passage from the Persian port of Gamron (also called Gombroon, Cambarão, or Combrù, now Bandar Abbas) to Surat:
We drank English beer/Spanish Sack/French Wine/Indian Brandy and good English Water making good Palepunzen. The Red Runs did not stop, but were not as strong as before.
Wy dronken Engels Bier/Spaansche Sek/Fransche Wijn/Indiaansche Brandewijn en goet Engels Water maakten goede Palepunzen. Den Rooden Loop hielde noch niet op maar was zo sterk niet als voren.
An English translation by John Davies was first published in 1662, but there was an error in his version, replacing scoops of water with rose-water. This is from the 1669 edition:
"Palepuntz, which is a kind of drink consisting of Aquavitæ, Rose-water, juice of Citrons and Sugar."This error was repeated in many later books, including the German translation of Mandelslo's travels.
The reading of Roozen-water instead of Hoozen-water is easily explained by the unfortunate similarity of the old-style Dutch letters H and R, as you can see in the picture above. Hoozen also seems to have been a much rarer word than Roozen for Roses. Most people would have known about roses.
Ironically, if they had used rose-water, many fewer punch drinkers might have died from the "red runs", a horrible collection of gastro-intestinal infections. Freshly-distilled rose-water would have very few bacteria in it. The rose-water recipe was published in a book so it became a Fact. I wonder how many readers of these books made a punch for themselves based on this recipe with rose-water. There are some modern cocktails that contain rose-water. Some are almost like the old-style punch.
Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo died of smallpox in Paris on his 28th birthday in 1644.
In 1682 Johannes Nieuhof's tales of travels with the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) were published. He had travelled from 1640 to 1649. He is the only author we know of who mentioned that the British used the word "follepons" for Massack. Some authors have speculated that this version of the name comes from fula arrack or fool's rack. Nieuhof himself mentions fula as another name for Arak in the same book.
Fula arak was the finest grade of arak, from the first fractions that came over from the still at the beginning of the distillation of fermented palm sugar. It deserved the name "flower" ( फूल phool, Hindi for flower) as it contained several compounds from the coconut sugar that are delightfully fragrant and found in several highly-sought after essential oils. 2-Phenylethyl alcohol is found in the best fragrant roses. Farnesol is found in the fragrant mimosa (Vachellia farnesiana). Several commentators wrote that arak was equal to the finest European brandies, or even better.
The BBC has a nice report on modern Arrack manufacture: "How Sri Lanka's arrack coconut spirit went upmarket".
Unfortunately, the other light, volatile compound that came over first in the distillation was methanol. The rough fermentations using wild yeasts (and whatever microorganisms got into the mixture accidentally from the tapping) probably produced a significant amount of methanol. In modern industrial production of spirits the first fraction to be distilled is sometimes discarded due to the methanol content. They also use pure strains of yeast. Most well-read home distillers know to do this. There are still some deaths every year across the world due to illegal distillers who have not read a modern distiller's manual. Though these are few compared to the numbers who die from the effects of chronic ethanol abuse. The current EU limits for methanol content in commercial spirits are, in grammes per litre of ethanol in the drink: gin 0.05g per hectolitre, vodka 0.1g, going up to grape marc spirit at 10g and fruit marc spirit at 15g.
As we see in several quotes, many commentators blamed the high death rate of the early Europeans in India on the heavy consumption of punch and arrack. The toxic effects of methanol would not have been felt while drunk. One of the first aid procedures for methanol poisoning is the administration of ethanol to the patient. The methanol is at first only as toxic as ethanol but when processed by the body it turns into formic acid. Formic acid does the damage. Ethanol competes with methanol for the enzymes that perform this conversion to formic acid. Formic acid is best known from ant and nettle stings but a nettle sting is nothing compared to the poisonous effects when large amounts are produced in the body. Malnutrition, particularly deficiency of the B vitamin folic acid, can make a drinker far more vulnerable to the toxic effects of methanol.
The toxic effects of methanol-contaminated alcohol typically start to show from 30 to 48 hours after the victim stops drinking. The arak drinker would experience the most vile of hangovers. The symptoms include anxiety, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness and visual problems. If sufficient methanol had built up in their bodies they would go blind, have brain haemorrhages and brain lesions and even die from lung damage.
Even if the drinkers were not killed by the toxic hangovers, damage would be done to their immune systems. A compromised immune system is the last thing they needed when visiting a tropical country with totally new diseases. At the time people had little idea of what caused infectious diseases and no idea of the existence of methanol until 1661.
Eventually the obvious meaning of the word fool transformed the meaning of fool arrack to mean the worst kind of arrack that was sold. This vinegary and cheap arrack was so nasty that it gained a reputation of having been distilled from venomous jellyfish.
In 1653 Francois de La Boullaye le Gouz wrote in the glossary at the end of his Les Voyages et Observations du Sieur de la Boullaye-le-Gouz Gentil-homme Angevin..., between Blackhead (in Cornwall but as Blac-hed) and Bonze (Chinese priest, as Bonse)
Bolleponge [or bowlapunch?] is an English word, which signifies a drink which the English use in the Indies made of sugar, juice of [probably] lime, water of life [distilled spirits], mace [the spice that covers the nutmeg seed and has a similar flavour] and toasted biscuit.
In the original French:
Bolleponge est un mot Anglois, qui signifie une boisson dont les Anglois usent aux Indes faite de sucre, suc de limon, eau de vie, fleur de muscade, & biscuit rosty.
While this has the requisite 5 ingredients, I think the Sieur left out water. I also think he assumed the biscuit was an ingredient rather than served on the side for dunking in the punch while drinking. No other source suggests that punch was thickened in any way. Though, perhaps the dunking biscuit was so essential it should be regarded as an ingredient.
At the time this was written, limon could mean either lemon or lime. In modern French, the use of citron took over. Citron now means lemon, lime or citron. Limon also means mud or silt in French so perhaps it was not a pleasing word to use for a fruit.
An illustration of the confusion in naming in French can be found in Charles de Rochefort's description of Citrons, published in 1658. He calls the largest a "Lime" though it is clear from the description that the smallest, le petit Citron, is the fruit we know as a lime. His book was translated into English by John Davies and published in 1666.
1658 saw the first edition of Edward Phillips' The New World of English Words or, a General Dictionary. Containing the Terms, Etymologies, Definitions, and perfect Interpretations of the Proper Significations of hard English Words, etc. The first to 4th editions only mention "punch" as "A kind of Indian drink."
The OED has the 5th edition in 1696 having added "made of Lime-Juice, Brandy, and other Ingredients".
By the 6th edition in 1706, now titled The New World of Words or Universal English Dictionary. Containing An Account of the Original or Proper Sense, and various Significations of all Hard Words derived from other Languages, etc., this had changed to:
Punch, a sort of strong Drink made of Brandy, Water, Lime-juice, Sugar, Spice, &c.
In February 1658 Henry Aldworth sent a letter from Rajmahal (now in north-east India) to his friend Thomas Davies
...much Sadnes in Mr Charnock and my Selfe, but not soe much as the absence of your Company, which wee have often remembered in a bowle of the cleerest punch, having noe better Liquor.
There was bound to be conflict between the British East India Company and Dutch East India Company where they traded and socialised in the same areas. On the 19th of April 1661 a complaint was sent on behalf of the "Honourable" English East India Company to Leonard Winning, the Commandore of the Netherlandish East India Company at Surat. The English were upset that the Dutch had not delivered a couple of Dutchmen to them who were accused of murdering two Englishmen.
On the 2nd of April 1661, an Englishman and Dutchman had met at a punch house at Morah and had almost come to blows. The next day, four Englishmen encountered 5 Dutchmen in Jempsyes' punch house at Swally (Suvali), very close to Morah (now Mora, both now overgrown by the suburbs of Surat in Gujarat). The Dutch surgeon and the Englishman almost come to blows again and ended up arranging a duel at Swally Sands the next day. The Dutch left and went to the punch house in Morah. The English accidentally went to the same punch house in Morah. On arriving there the English attacked the Dutch with sticks. The English testified that they were attacked immediately on arriving at the punch house despite having admitted attacking the Dutch with sticks. The English were outraged that the word of a heathen Parsee was taken over the testimony of two good Christians.
An attestation of Muckadam Moncka Persee that keepes a Punch house at Morah, where Joseph Goodson and John Jones were murdered by the Dutch, given on Swally Marine the 17th Aprill 1661:-Mukadam (or Moghadam) means headman, supervisor or foreman. We can assume that Monka was the bar manager of the punch house. The owner of this punch house in Morah appears to have been Peeter Mollacker, who was, presumably, Dutch. The one in Swally was "Jempsyes house", possibly the same person as the witness Jempsiex and possibly the Parsee names Jamaspa or Jamshed. The Punch house keeper Monka was a Parsee, one of the Gujarati-born descendants of Zoroastrian refugees from Islamic Persia. Nothing more is known of the case after the letter of complaint was sent to the Dutch.
Into my house at Morah there came in first some Dutchmen, and about one quarter of an houre after, there came in also some English. The English with sticks stroke the Dutch, but the Dutch did not give backe, and after three or four blowes there lying a sworde on the cotte, whereon the Dutch satt, they drewe them, and killed 2 Englishmen, and then fleed.
SubscribedMONKA.That Muckadam Moncka doth attest the premises above written, is wittnessed by us,
DROLDAS.CULLIAN. [Kalyanwala?]NANNOBY. [Nanabhai?]JEMPSIEX.
François Bernier, a French doctor trained at the famous medical school in Montpellier, wrote a series of volumes on his return from his travels in Asia from 1656 to 1669. In a volume published in 1671, Bernier wrote that when the British and Dutch first arrived in India, all the Europeans were dying.
Nevertheless, since orders were given, also by the Dutch, that their crews not drink so much bouleponge, and not leave the ships to come ashore to visit the arrack and tobacco sellers, and the Indian women, and they have found that a little good wine of Graves, Canary or Shiraz, is a wonderful antidote against the bad air, since, I say, they are taking these precautions, there are not so many diseases, and not so many of them die anymore. Bouleponge is a certain beverage composed of arrack, that is to say distilled spirits of black sugar, with juice of lime, water and a little nutmeg grated on it; it is quite agreeable to the palate, but it is a plague to the body and health.
In the original French:
Néanmois, depuis qu'ils ont donné ordre, aussi bien que les Hollandais, que leurs équipages ne boivent pas tant de bouleponge, et ne sortent pas si souvent des navires pour venir à terre visiter les vendeurs d'arac et de tabac, et les Indiennes, et qu'ils ont expérimenté qu'un peu de bon vin de Grave, de Canarie ou de Chiras, est un merveilleux antidote contre le mauvais air, depuis, dis-je, qu'ils vivent avec ses précautions, il n'y a pas tant de maladies, et il ne leur meurt plus tant de monde. Bouleponge est un certain breuvage composé d'arac, c'est-à-dire d'eau-de-vie de sucre noir, avec du suc de limons, de l'eau et un peu de muscade rapée dessus; il est assez agréable au goût, mais c'est la peste du corps et de la santé.
Ovington had the black sugar product as Jagre Arak, the strongest of several types of arrack. See below in 1696.
If you suffer from malaria you will be glad to know that, though Shiraz in Iran no longer produces wine, Canary wine from the Canary Islands is once again being imported into the UK. There are no modern studies on the usefulness of different wines against malaria, for some reason.
In 1662 Johann Saars published a travel book that included some drink recipes from his time with the Dutch East India Company from 1644-1659. However, he had lost his notes on his return to Germany and extra information was added from other traveller's tales. This version is from the 1672 edition. In the 1662 edition he had used the spelling pulebunze and there were no footnotes.
However, not only the clapper-trees [coconut-palms] make the drink known as Siere of which I will soon speak: but there are more. Firstly, Massack, which is made like this. Wanting lots or a little, take four/five/six measures of Siere, and when you have warmed them you add two/three measures of Arack, which is just like Brandy, into a bowl with twenty/thirty/fourty eggs and beat until fine and gradually add a little bit of the warm Siere to the bowl while stirring so it doesn't clot. Finally two/three sticks of cinnamon and nutmegs ground small mixed in it and pour it all together and that is a warm drink that not only has an excellent taste: but also powerfully satisfies and fattens. Secondly, Vin perle, that is half water/half arack, is boiled together with two/three beaten eggs, squeezed lemon/sugar/cinnamon and mace makes for a pleasant drink. Thirdly, † so-called Palebunze, of half water/half Brandy/thirty or forty limes, with the seeds removed, and a little sugar thrown in as the taste is not so pleasant: also not healthy.[Many thanks to Marlies for helping with this translation.]
* Juergen Andersen (page 10) calls the Massac a dish instead of the wine-soups and also describes it like this: It is made from two parts of water, one part of Brandy, several eggs, bastard cinnamon-powder and sugar, with bread it is feasted on like a wine soup and makes you very drunk.
† Throughout India the drink is common. In Persia too. Mr von Mandelslo describes it as he found it in Gamron [now Bandar Abbas, the port across from Hormuz island in Iran] (Book I, p. 25). It is strong brandy/lemon juice/sugar and rosewater mixed together, and soon causes drunkenness and a heated fever and rough dysentery, so that when they are not taken care of, they drop like flies and die. Jürgen Andersen (Book I, p. 19) also says: Take half brandy/half water/grated nutmegs/bastard cinnamon-powder/sugar/small Chinese limes stirred together and then drunk.
Siere was called sura by the English. It appears to have simply been the same as toddy or palm-wine - a sugary palm sap in varying degrees of alcoholic content. The alcoholic strength would depend on how long it had been left to ferment. It would still be very sweet, even when quite alcoholic.
This mention of rose-water is a mistake from a misreading of the original Dutch version of Mandelslo's travels, see above for the full details.
In the original German:
Sonst aber ist nicht nur allein von den Clapperbäumen das gemachte Getränck Siere genennt davon Ich bald reden will : sondern noch mehr derselben haben Sie als erstlich den * Massack, das also gemacht wird : Nachdem viel oder wenig den wollen nehmen Sie vier / funf / sechs Maas Siere, und wann Sie den warm gemacht thun Sie zivey / drey Maas Arack wie Brantwein darein schlagen in eine Schüssel zivayssig / dreyssig / viertzig Eyer und klopfens gar klein und thun allmählig ein wenig von dem warmen Siere in die Schüssel rührens aber doch alleweil dadey dass nicht zusamm lauffe endlich zivey/drey/ Stück Zimmet und Musscadnussen klein gereiben darunter und schütten es alles untereinander dass es warm getruncken nicht nur einen trefflichen Geschmack hat : sondern auch mächtig sättiget und mastet. Fürs ander Vin perle, das ist ein halb Wasser / ein halb Arack, wird miteinander gesotten mit zivey / drey / Eyern eingeschlagen / Citronen darein gedruckt / Zucker / Zimmet / und Musscaden-Blumen zu einen angenehmen Tranck gemachet. Fürs Dritte † Palebunze getituliret, von halb Wasser / halb Brantwein / dreyssig, viertzig Limonien, deren Körnlein ausgespeyet werden, und ein wenig Zucker eingeworfen wie dem Geschmack so angenehm nicht : Also auch der Gesundheit nicht.
* Jürgen Andersen nennet pag. 10 den Massac, ein Gerücht an Statt der Weinsuppen und beschreibets auch so : Es werde gemachet aus zwey Theil Wasser ein Theil Brantwein etlichen Eyern / Cannel-Pulver und Zucker mit Brod drein werde wie ein Weinsuppen gefochet und gebe Räusche.
† In gantz Indien ist das Gedranck gebräuchlich. In Persien auch. Herr vo Mandelslo beschreibt es wie Ers zu Gamron gefunden Lib. I. p.m. 25 es werde von starcken Brantwein / Citronensaft / Zucker und Rosenwasser untereinander gemischet mache bald truncken verursache hitzige Fieber und rohte Ruhr dass wann man alsdenn nicht wohl in acht genommen werde als die Fliegen hinfalle und sterbe. Jürgen Andersen Lib. I. p.m. 19 sagt auch : Wan nehme halb Brantwein / halb Wasser / geriebene Muscaden-Nüsse / Cannel-Pulver / Zucker / Chinesische kleine Limonien durcheinander gerühret und davon getruncken.
In January 1672 the Governor of Fort St George, William Langhorn, issued an order:
It is enordered and declared that for prevention of disorders and for ye Preservation of ye Honoble Compas: servts: & souldiers of ye Garrison from distempers and Diseases frequently caused thereby and by the unwholesome Liquor ca[ll]ed Parrier Arrack.Nobody who sold local Arrack was allowed to sell to or entertain anyone from the Company.
Public houses were not to draw liquor for any customer after 8 o'clock at night and had to ask them to go home. Of course, some East India Company employees lived in the rooms above the pub.
To avoid the ruination of credit being given by sellers of alcohol:
... no Victualler Punch house or other house of Entertainmt: shall be permitted to make stoppage at ye Pay day of their Wages, or any part thereof, saveing only for their Dyet...Parrier Arrack was named for the Pariahs, the lowest caste of Hindus oppressed and excluded by all the others. They were later called Untouchables. They now prefer the term Dalit, since the Dalit Panthers campaigned for an end to caste discrimination.
In 1672, The American Physitian; Or, a Treatise of the Roots, Plants, Trees, Shrubs, Fruit, Herbs, Etc., Growing in the English Plantations in America;... by William Hughes was published. On pages 48-50 he described the lime tree. He wrote that they grow in most of the Caribbean islands, especially in Jamaica and that he had gathered many of them. Of its Vertues he wrote:
The juyce of the fruit of this Tree is sharper then the juyce of Lemmons, and is excellent good against the Scurvie, being frequently used, as I have often made tryal : it quencheth thirst, and is very good in sawces for Feverish distempers. In a word, it performeth all things that the juyce of Lemmons doth, but more effectually. Also the juyce of Limes is exceedingly much in esteem in America [meaning all of the Americas, not just the Yankees] for the making of Punch; a drink which most there use, to be merry withal; and the chiefest liquor they make use of to entertain strangers and friends. It is made of Spirit of Wine (or else with Rum) Water and Sugar, with as much of the juyce of Limes as will give it a fine piquancie or sharpness.Hughes also wrote that, unlike the very tasty arrack in the East Indies, rum was "not very pleasant until a man is used to it."
In 1676 John Worlidge mentioned punch in his Vinetum Brittanicum,... This is from the second edition from 1678:
Pale-puntz, here vulgarly known by the name of Punch; a Drink compounded of Brandy or AquaVitæ, Juice of Lemons, Oranges, Sugar or such-like; very usual amongst those that frequent the Sea, where a Bowl of Punch is a usual Beverage.
In 1676, Streynsham Master mentioned the punch houses in Balasore (Baleshwar in Orisha, northwest India):
There being a Complaint of the Punch houses in this Towne, which are very pernicious, soe well in respect to the Peace and quiet of the Place, as the health of our Seaman, it is therefore ordered that noe Punch-houses bee admitted within the precinct of the English Compound.On the 2nd of September 1678, Streynsham Master as Agent and Governor of Fort St George oversaw the introduction of a licensing system for sellers of alcohol:
1. That noe Person or Persons after the 25th : day of this present Septembr shall sell or utter by retaile any Wine, Beere, Mum, Punch, Arrack or other Liquors, nor keep any Taverne, Punch house or publique victualling house for the selling by retaile of any kind of Liquors without the Licence and authority of the Governr : and Councell given in writeing under their hands and the Honoble : Compas : Seale upon paine to forfeit for every such offence the summe of 10 : pagos for Wine and other Europe Liquors, and 2 : pagos : for Punch, Arrack or other India Liquors, the said forfeitures one half to be for ye use of the poore of this place, and the other halfe for the Informer, and in default of payment within 4 dayes after conviction they shall suffer three dayes imprisonment...They went on to set conditions for the licenses, including maximum prices for the different types of liquor.
In 1682, the Dutchman Johannes Nieuhof, also (see above under Fool Punch) reported on a mixture with limes.
This water prepared with sugar and limes may be ordinary water or "strong water". Sometimes "water" on its own is used to mean an alcoholic spirit. It is impossible to tell what was meant here, though it does follow a paragraph on Persian wine from Shiraz.
They have also used an arrack distilled from dates and rice. Also there, water is prepared with sugar and limes, which is drunk in the great heat: although being used so abundantly it causes the red runs.
In the original Dutch:
Men heeft'er ook arak van dadelen en rijs gebrant. Ook wort'er water met zuiker en limoenen toegemaekt, dat in de grote hitte gedronken wort : hoewel het, zoo't overvloedigh gebruikt wort, de roode loop veroorzaekt.
In 1683 William Hedges gave his opinion that soldiers were needed in Bengal not just for protection from the natives and other trading nations but also to control their own employees who were often drunk enough to cause trouble.
...as well as overawe our owne people and mariners, who are now very numerous and insolent amongst us, & (by reason of Punch) every day give disturbance.
Silver Punch bowl London 1680 Diameter: 12 in. (30.5 cm)
Sive editis, sive bibitis...
Collegis suis posterisq[ue], Dicarit Richardus Cox Custos 1680
Whether eating or drinking
[whatever you do, all is for the Glory of God - 1 Corinthians 10:31]
[whatever you do, all is for the Glory of God - 1 Corinthians 10:31]
From your colleagues, Dedicated to Richard Cox, Guard/Treasurer? 1680
This sort of beloved Liquor is made of Brandy or Rum, Sugar, Water, Lime-Juice, and sometimes Ginger or Nutmegs...In the same year Tryon published A Brief Treatise of the Principal Fruits and Herbs that grow in Barbadoes, Jamaica, And other Plantations in the West-Indies. He strongly advised against the use of limes, as they are an immature fruit in which predominate
...the Saturnal and Martial Poysons, because the Sun and Coelestial Influences, have not had Power to raise or awaken the balsamick or friendly Vertues of Nature, ...Punch, the potent alcoholic cocktail, seemed to be regarded by Thomas Tryon as inimical to health simply because it contains lime-juice, if you go by his book from 1697. Because lime-juice is "fierce, sharp and Astringent, apt to create griping Pains in the Belly". However, his three page tirade in the 1684 book showed he despised all the ingredients of punch, except sugar and water.
Silver Punch Bowl, London 1684
Among the official records of the British East India Company from the 8th of March 1688 at Fort St George, it was reported that:
Mrs Francis (wife to the late Lieut Francis Kil'd at Hidgley [now Hugli-Chuchura in West Bengal] by the Moors) being Sent hither from Bengall, very poor, She made itt her petition that She might keep a Punch house for her maintenance, but She being a notorious bad woman, 'tis agreed that She bee not permitted to keep a publick house, lest itt bee the occation of many debaucheries & disorders, She having lived very Scandalously formerly here, 'tis therefore order'd that she go on the Royall James to the West Coast, & that according to the to the Rt Honble Compas order, She bee allowed something out of the proceed of the prizes, to provide her necessarys, in consideration of the loss of her husband, in the late unhappy Bengall expedition.In the entry for the 24th of September 1688 we learn Mrs Francis' first name, and that she was still at Fort St George:
Mrs Lucy Francis Widdow to Capt Francis who was killed in the Warr last year at Hidgley, being sent hither by the Agent &ca in a very poor & weak Condition, whereby were necessitated to allow her Pagods 3: a month for her maintenance, but she now importunely Petitioning to returne home to her freinds in England, and not being able to Subsist here without the Rt Honble Compas Charity, which she is not satisfyed with, what wee allow, and being of a turbelent, Clamarous Spiritt and of a badd Reputation, Tis agreed and ordered that Capt William Pearse Commandr of the Bengall Merchant, be order'd to receive her aboard upon the Rt Honble Compas Acct for her passage to England.The Bengall Merchant sailed for England on the 20th of October 1688. I cannot help but wonder what interesting Oriental customs Lucy introduced to her friends in England and the public houses they, no doubt, frequented.
On the 26th of December 1689 Colonel Christopher Codrington, a wealthy slave-breeder and Governor of the Leeward Islands, gave final instructions to Captain Thomas Hewetson to attack the French island of Marie-Galante as a privateer. We would now classify a privateer as a government-sponsored maritime war criminal. In his 2002 book The Pirate Hunter, Richard Zacks stated that the meeting was in a tavern on the West Indian island of Antigua and Captain William Kidd was present. Zacks also claimed the talks were helped along with rum punch.
Oddly, the recipe Zacks gives for punch is worded exactly like Hans Sloane's of 1707 (see below), except with the addition of egg yolk. While massack may contain egg I have not seen any early recipe for punch that contained eggs. Zacks kindly replied to my enquiry about this oddity. He cannot access his research material from 2002 and cannot remember where he found the recipe for punch.
The records of Captain William Kidd's trial in 1701 were published in the same year, as The Arraignment, Tryal, and Condemnation of Captain William Kidd, for murther and piracy... One witness gave evidence about a meeting between Kidd and Captain Robert Culliford, a known Cornish pirate. Testimony included a mention of bomboo or bombooe (on pages 21, 25 and 58). :
They made a Tub of Bomboo, as they call it (it is made of Water, and Limes, and Sugar) and there they drank to one another; and says Captain Kid, before I would do you any dammage, I had rather my Soul should broil in Hell-fire.Some innocent commentators have suggested that Captain Kidd and Captain Culliford shared a non-alcoholic lime cordial when they met near Madagascar and drank to each other's health. Bomboo was almost certainly made with spirits. This may be one of those cases where "Water" meant Strong Water, or the spirits were taken as understood.
The entry in the OED for "bumbo" contains the alternative spelling "bomboo". The definition includes that it is made with spirits, sugar and water, often with fruits and spices. The OED is uncertain of the origin, giving it as possibly from childish Italian. I would just like to point out that Malay and Tagalog both have bombong or bumbong meaning a cylindrical water, drink or cooking container made from bamboo that could be as thick as a man's thigh. There is also the possibility the word came from the less exotic "bumboat", a small trading ship that carried provisions to ships at anchor that were, according to the OED, often associated with illicit activities. The quotes in the OED make it clear the bumboats were also often selling alcoholic drinks to the ships.
In 1692 the book Ost-Indianische Räysen und Krieges-Dienste by Christoff Frikens was published in German. The book recounted his travels from 1680 to 1685 as a surgeon employed by the Dutch East India Company. 1700 saw the English language publication of Voyages To The East Indies by Christopher Fryke and Christopher Schweitzer.
Christoff Frikens, while describing the most delicious fruits of the island of Java, mentioned the making of coconut nectar wine, then continues in the English language edition:
With this Liquor they make the best Vinegar, and Arack or Brandy, which goes far beyond our best Rhenish Wine for strength, taste and colour : And mixing it with Water and Wine, with Sugar and Lemon-juice, it makes an excellent sort of Lemonade, which they call Massack and Burabols, but sufficiently known in England by the name of Punch.Though in the German edition of 1692 he had written:
Auss diesem Safft machet man fürters den besten Essig und Arac, oder Brandten-Wein der mit dem Rheinischen hier zu Lande trotzen solte der Stärcke und Lieblichkeit halben.
Aus ermeltem Arac bereitet man so dann auch verschiedene herzliche Massac und Burabols, so bald denen kalten Schahlen und Lemonat gleichen indeme man selben mit Zucker, Lemonien-wasser und Wein vermengat.Clearly it was the translator who added the identification of massack with punch. We don't know where the name burabols came from. Boerepons is another version from 1675, seeming to mean "countryman/clown/jester punch". That might be a reference to fool punch. In Dutch bol can mean a small loaf, a ball or the head.
I am reasonably sure burabols has nothing to do with the Dutch distiller Bols. The Bols distillery started in Amsterdam in 1575. Lucas Bols became a major shareholder in the Dutch East India Company in 1700, giving him priority on purchasing the exotic imported spices for his increasing range of liqueurs. The company continues today as the world's oldest continuous commercial distillery.
In an unsent letter found after his death John Goldsborough was reporting the many problems with East India Company officials in Bengal. It was probably composed in October 1693.
I have begun with Captain Hill, who was the Secretary and the Capt. of the Soldiers, who was allowed to keep a punch-house and Billiard table Gratis when others paid for it, and to make two false musters ... ...and debauched in his life, who has lett his wife turn papist without Controull. ... ...his frothy vices had swallowed him up, and all his Ingenuity, which God hath plentifully supplied him with, soe that it will be very Difficult for him to Reduce from his vilde Loose Life, to be fitt for Business.
In 1694, the Pharmacopoeia Bateana Or Bate's Dispensatory by William Salmon was published in London. It was a translation into English from the Latin and expansion by Salmon on the original content by George Bate. Among the many medicinal concoctions on 934 pages, Salmon gave an actual recipe for punch. This was the first I know of which had quantities for the ingredients.
Bate's Diatesseron Potabile was translated as "The Julep of Four Things" though the name is more like "Through-Four Drinkable" in Greek and Latin. The recipe called for 4 parts of French brandy in 23 parts of the finished mixture. Salmon called that alcoholic violet and lemon syrup "in truth but a kind of small Punch". Salmon advised that "a larger proportion of spirits" would make it more effective and less dangerous.
Salmon then gave his own recipe for a punch with more alcohol:
If you would make a pleasant and grateful sort of Punch, you must compose it with the following quantities. ℞ Fair Water a Quart: choice and pure Lime Juice, almost half a Pint: double refined Sugar, three quarters of a Pound: mix and perfectly dissolve the Sugar: then add of French Brandy a full Pint; and if you so please one Nutmeg grated.Assuming he was using wine gallons as the basis for his liquid measurements, in SI units that would be:
Water: 940mlThe amount of sugar (including the small amount of sugar in the lime juice) in the finished punch would be about equivalent to that given in the USDA Food Composition Database for a "pina colada, prepared-from-recipe". That is more than twice the sugar content of most natural fruit juices such as apple, pineapple and orange juices.
Lime juice: 200ml
Total volume: ~1.61 litres.
The alcohol content was probably higher in the punch. Using brandy of 32% w/v alcohol would give the equivalent alcoholic strength to the punch as the US Government standard Piña Colada. Using brandy of about 50% w/v alcohol would give a punch of about 15% alcohol. This is about the same as a very strong modern wine.
The USDA website does not give the recipe they used, nor do they say if it was an original Cuban style or later Puerto Rican style Piña Colada. Though they probably chose the Puerto Rican one tainted with coconut, for political reasons. Both have less lime juice than the Bate's Dispensatory Punch but they clearly get a lot of acidity (and sugar) from the large amount of pineapple juice used.
Unlike some other medical experts of the time, Salmon was very impressed by the healthy effects of punch. Perhaps because he was using his recipe based on proper brandy rather than arrack or rum.
It makes merry and chearful, strengthens the Stomach, revives the Spirits, fortifies the Heart, stops Vomiting to a wonder, and quenches Thirst beyond all imagination: nor is any Wine so grateful to the Pallet as this, if made according to this way, and with these proportions.
In 1710, William Salmon published Botanologia. The English Herbal: Or History Of Plants. Among the Analepticks (restorers, stimulants for the nerves) he gives another recipe for Punch, with less water and no nutmeg:
...and a Liquor called Punch, thus made. Take choice Brandy, fair Water, of each a Quart, Lime Juice, a Pint, or three quarters of a Pint, double refined Sugar, a Pound; mix and dissolve: Of which the Consumptive may drink half a Pint at a time, in the Morning; just before Dinner; at four in the Afternoon; and at Bed-time.Water: 940ml
Lime juice: 470ml or 350ml
Total volume: ~2.35 or ~2.23 litres.
Two pints of a punch at 40% brandy would be over half of a modern bottle of brandy per day. Not usually recommended by modern physicians.
Later in the book Salmon raved about the medicinal power of turnip wine. He then details the uses of distilled turnip wine:
Spiritus Raporum, the Spirit of Turneps. It is drawn from the aforementioned Liquor, as you draw Spirit of Wine from Wine. It has much the same Virtues with Spirits of Wine, and may be drank alone, or with Sugar, as you drink Brandy to warm the Stomach, cherish the Bowels, and revive the Spirits. With it you may make Punch with Water, Lime-Juice and Sugar, as you do with Brandy, which being drank will have the same Effects; and if taken plentifully or freely, viz. about half a Pint at a time, 1. In the Morning fasting. 2. Half an Hour before Dinner. 3 At four in the Afternoon; and 4. At Bed time, and be continued in the same manner for 10 or 12 Weeks together, it will Cure a Pining Consumption.
A few pages further on Salmon gave punch as a product of the grape, as the last entry under the Garden Vine. Salmon really liked punch.
Diatessaron; Punch, or a Mixture of four things. Take choice Brandy, fair Water, of each a Quart; pure Lime Juice a Pint; Double Refin'd Sugar a Pound; mix altogether, and stir the Mixture till the Sugar is all dissolved. For a Conclusion to the Fruit of the Vine, or the Juice of the Grape, we thought it fitting to add this wonderful Reviving Cordial, this charming Liquor of Consolation, which gives relief to the Miserable, removes Grief, chears the Sorrowful, elevates the Dejected, gives admirable satisfaction to the Discontented, and a plenary Release to the Slave, of what Kindred or Nation so ever; making every one seem happy to himself, who has the free Liberty of drinking it plentifully, and oft as he thinks it convenient. It truly chears the Heart, revives the Spirits, strengthens Universal Nature, and makes the Patient Pleasant and Sprightly, if moderately taken. I know it to be a true Restorative, and to have Cured such as have been in deep Consumptions by drinking it every Day for about 5, 6, or 7 Months together, half a Pint every Morning fasting, eating with it a White Ship Bisket, toasted, and soaked in the same; half a Pint half an Hour before Dinner; half a Pint about 5 in the Afternoon, and half a Pint at going to Bed. This quantity may do well enough for Men, but the Female Sex, may (if they please) a little diminish the Dose, as their Reason and Experience shall direct them.
Salmon expanded on the benefits of turnip brandy in his The Family Dictionary, or, Household Companion, also published in 1710. He proposed that Britain could be self-sufficient in brandy if they grew turnips on the millions of acres of poor land across the country. Employment would be so extensive that the blind, disabled and children over 7 years old would all be earning a good wage. His idea that the economy would benefit enormously was perhaps better suited to his suggestion that we produce mulberry wine and mulberry brandy.
In The Family Dictionary Salmon also gave a recipe for "Punch for Chambermaids". This punch had lime, lemon and orange juice and was rather less alcoholic than the standard "Punch Orthodox or Royal".
In 1696, A Voyage to Suratt in the Year 1689 by John Ovington was published. He wrote of Arak
Of this sort of Liquor there are two kinds most fam'd in India, the Goa and Bengal Arak, besides that which is made at Batavia [Jakarta, now capital of Indonesia]. Bengal is a much stronger spirit than that of Goa, tho' both are made use of by the Europeans in making Punch, and are bought at both places at very low rates. Arak is distilled from Rice, and sometimes from Toddy the juice of a Tree, and is prescrib'd in healing the griping of the Gutts. Stronger than this is another Compound-Liquor made in India, which is distilled from Black Sugar mixt with water, with the bark of the Tree Baboul, this is called Jagre Arak; it is as hot as Brandy and is drunk in Drams by the Europeans.Jaggery is dried palm sap sugar or dried sugar cane juice. So Jagre Arak is a prototype of rum. Baboul is बबूल, known to botanists as Acacia (or Vachellia) nilotica ssp. indica. The bark has about 20% tannin, so perhaps traps some chemicals from the rough fermentation that might otherwise taint the distilled spirit.
The Dutch liked punch as well, it seems. Ovington wrote about the tombs in a graveyard just outside Surat in the same book:
...and another less stately, but more fam'd; built by the order of a Jovial Dutch Commander, with three large Punch-Bowls upon the top of it, for the Entertainment and Mirth of his surviving Friends, who remember him there sometimes so much, that they quite forget themselves.
In William Dampier's A new voyage around the world of 1697 (1699 edition), we learn that lime-juice was among the commodities esteemed and coveted at St Helena, the remote island in the South Atlantic. Possibly because many sailors passed through, or stayed for a while to recover from scurvy by eating fresh food. The sailors were a great benefit to the local economy.
They [the inhabitants of St Helena] are most of them very poor: but such as could get a little Liquor to sell to the Seamen at this time got what the Seamen could spare; for the Punch Houses were never empty.In the Caribbean, Dampier wrote that punch was always to be found on those ships which visited Tortuga (off the north coast of what is now Haiti) from the other Caribbean islands. They were there to harvest the salt from a salt lake at the east end of the island during the months of May to August:
... and these Ships coming from some of the Caribbe Islands, are always well stored with Rum, Sugar and Lime-Juice to make Punch; to hearten their Men when they are at work, getting and bringing aboard the Salt;The salt-harvesters would also carry extra punch to provide for the Privateers who gathered to meet with them at Tortuga during the same months:
...purposely to keep a Christmas as they call it; being sure to meet with Liquor enough to be merry with, and are very liberal to those that treat them.Though seldom cooked, the avocado is hot right now, so I will reproduce Dampier's description in full. This might have been the first printed description in English of both the avocado and a precursor to guacamole.
The Avogato Pear-tree is as big as most Pear-trees, and is commonly pretty high; the skin or bark black and pretty smooth; the leaves large, of an oval shape, and the Fruit as big as a large Lemon. It is of a green colour, till it is ripe, and then it is a little yellowish. They are seldom fit to eat till they have been gathered 2 or 3 day; then they become soft, and the skin or rind will peel off.The substance in the inside is green, or a little yellowish, and is as soft as Butter. Within the substance there is a stone as big as a Horse-plumb [a small, red variety of plum]. This Fruit has no taste of itself, and therefore 'tis usually mixt with Sugar and Lime-juice, and beaten together in a Plate, and this is an excellent dish. The ordinary way is to eat it with a little Salt and rosted Plantain, and thus a man that's hungry, may make a good meal of it. It is very wholesome eaten any way. It is reported that this Fruit provokes to lust, and therefore is said to be much esteemed by the Spaniards; and I do believe they are much esteemed by them, for I have met with plenty of them in many places in the North Seas, where the Spaniards are settled, as in the Bay of Campechy [now in Mexico], on the Coast of Cartagena [now in Colombia], and the Coast of Carraccos [now in Venezuela]; and there are some in Jamaica, which were planted by the Spaniards, when they possessed that Island.He also gave descriptions of many other trees, including the lime.
The Lime is a sort of bastard or Crab limon. The Tree, or Bush that bears it is prickly, like a Thorn, growing full of small boughs. In Jamaica, and other places, they make of the Lime-Bush Fences about Gardens, or any other Inclosure, by planting the seeds close together, which growing up thick, spread abroad, and make a very good Hedge. The Fruit is like a Lemon, but smaller; the rind thin, and the inclosed substance full of juice. The juice is very tart, yet of a pleasant taste if sweetened with Sugar. It is chiefly used for making Punch, both in the East and West Indies, as well ashore as at Sea. and much of it is for that purpose yearly brought home to England from our West India Plantations. It is also used for a particular kind of Sauce, which is called Pepper-Sauce, and is made of Cod-pepper, commonly called Guinea-pepper, boiled in Water, and then pickled with Salt, and mixt with Lime-juice to preserve it. Limes grow plentifully in the East and West Indies within the Tropicks.
The Spaniards in their towns in America, as at Havana, Cartagena, Portabel, &c, have their Markets full of Plantains, it being the common food for poor people. ... ...Poor people, or Negroes, that have neither Fish nor Flesh to eat with it, make sauce with Cod-pepper, Salt and Lime-juice; which makes it eat very savory; much better than a crust of bread alone.
I do like the idea that the lime relates to the lemon as the apple does to the crab apple.
Dampier's voyages had been as a pirate and privateer. His next voyage after the book was published was a disastrous expedition to Australia. The ship sank due to poor maintenance. Dampier returned to privateering. Dampier again forgot to get the usual protective sheathing for the hull on these voyages. On one of those voyages Alexander Selkirk asked to be marooned on the Juan Fernández Islands. Selkirk believed the ship he was sailing on, the Cinque Ports, was not seaworthy and should be repaired. Selkirk asked to take his chances on an uninhabited island. Selkirk wanted to change his mind when they actually put him ashore but the Captain insisted that he should stay on the island. The Cinque Ports sank quite soon after. The St George also had to be abandoned before the voyage was finished due to the hull being destroyed by worms.
Dampier then took a lesser post on a privateering expedition by Woodes Rogers. They rescued Alexander Selkirk after 4 years, who then became the model for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Mentions of punch from Woodes Rogers are detailed below.
Legal action was brought against Dampier by the owners of the Cinque Ports and St George. Dampier avoided this suit and further debt by dying at 64 years old in 1715.
A brief aside on Cod-pepper
We now know cod-pepper as chili pepper. The name has nothing to do with fish. In this case "cod" refers to the pod, like the pea pod and mustard fruit. The name was given because of the hollow fruit of the chili. The earliest mention of cod-pepper in the Oxford English Dictionary was from 1727. Talking of the customs of the King at his court in Ava (Inwa) in Burma (Myanmar), Captain Alexander Hamilton (not the later one now famous from the popular hip-hop musical) wrote in his A new Account of the East Indies:
Every Morning these Mandareens are obliged to attend at Court, and after his Majesty has drest and breakfasted, which is generally on a Dish of Rice boiled in fair water and his Sauce is some Shrimps dried and powder'd, and some Salt and Cod-pepper, mixt with those two ingredients, and that Mixture makes a very pungent sauce, which they call Prock, and is in great Esteem and Use among the Peguers.Dried fish or shrimp sauce with chili is now very popular in Burmese cuisine but called ngapi or balachaung. There is a Cambodian fermented fish paste without chili called prahok that may be connected with the origin of the name prock for this sauce. Prahok also means prawn in Khmer.
Hamilton later mentions another hot condiment produced at Bang Pla Soi, now a part of Chonburi in Thailand. Chonburi province is now famous as the home of the immensely popular Sriracha chili sauce.
But Bankasoy [Bang Pla Soi] is famous, chiefly for making Ballichang, a Sauce made of dried Shrimps, Cod-pepper, Salt and a Sea Weed or Grass, all well mixed, and beaten up to the Consistency of thick Mustard. Its Taste and Smell are both ungrateful to the Nose and Palate; but many Hundred Tuns are expended in Siam and the adjacent Countries.Balachaung, balachong and blachang are a few of the spelling variants of chili/shrimp pastes popular in Burma and Bangladesh. The name appears to have originated in Malay, as belacan. The standard Malaysian belacan appears to be made without chili, the popular chili/shrimp variety is called sambal belacan.
This is an example of how quickly after the European invasion of the Americas the plants domesticated by the natives of the New World spread across the Old World and became essential parts of their cuisine. Just as the many varieties of Citrus spread rapidly in the Americas, chili, maize, potatoes, tomatoes and other American plants spread across Europe, Africa and Asia, changing our food in a few years. The use of maize as a crop in Africa spread inland far faster than the European invasions there.
Back to the Punch house
The official documents of the British East India Company at Fort St George for April 1697, recorded that:
Mr : Cheesely haveing in a Punch house upon a Quarrel of words drawne his sword (but were parted, and put up without any mischeif done) and being taxed therewith hee doth both own and Justifie ye : drawing of the sword, and alledges that hee had recd : provokeing language wch : he thought himself obliged to resent, Mr : Cheesely was thereupon ordered, not to wear a sword while here and acquainted that by the Law of this place who ever receives or gives a challenge is to pay 200 Pags
Miniature silver nutmeg grater, London ca. 1698–1699
Cover Height: 2 3/4 in. (7 cm). Grater Height: 2 5/16 in. (5.9 cm), Diameter: 7/8 in. (2.2 cm)
A letter from the British East India Company in Fort St George on the 5th of April 1698 recorded that:
This day Ship Sedgwick arrived from Anjenga & brings us the inclosed Copy of an Account of the Pirates actions on that Coast, and the Sedgwick in her returne from Anjengo was taken by the Allgerine Galley one seivers [Dirk Chivers] a Dutchman Commander an Extraordinary sailer and rowes with 24 Oars 250 Tons 150 men & 28 Guns but was dismissed, without impairing her Cargo (which was nothing but pepper, and not for their turne) but they rob'd her of two new Duck courses, their Cable, cordage, Pitch, Tarr &ca Stores.Anjengo was a partly-completed Company fort at the town now called Anchuthengu in Kerala State on the west coast, near the southern tip of India. The cargo of pepper would have been harvested from farms inland from the coast of Kerala.
Some authors have assumed that "Allgerine" was another name for the pirate Dirk Chiver's ship, the Soldado. Allgerine was actually a general adjective for piratical people, ships or things, more usually spelt Algerine. The word was derived from Algiers in the same way tangerine was from Tangier.
The courses are the mainsail, foresail, and mizzen. The "Duck courses" that were stolen would have been those sails made of a light but tough linen canvas called "duck". The duck cloth would eventually give its name to duck tape, known more widely as duct tape.
Another letter of the same date gave more details of the incident. The pirates boarded the Sedgwick off Cape Comerine at the very southernmost tip of India. The cape is now called Kanyakumari and is in Tamil Nadu State. Captain Lockyer Watts had saved his ship by an ingenious show of hospitality:
The Cargo of Pepper not being for their returne, they dismissed the Ship after they had rob'd her of her two courses, Sheet Cable, anchor, Cordage, Pitch, Tarr &ca: stores. Thô severall of the Ships Company being mightilly taken wth: the Sedgewicke's built and usefullnesse for a Cruiser. Captain Watts wth: great difficulty prevailed to save her by a merry management of a bowl of Punch among the ships Company, upon wch: they said he is an honest fellow lett him goe...A consultation the next day tells us that the Sedgwick's cargo of pepper weighed 90 candy, a little over 20 metric tonnes. Captain Watts and his officers were rewarded "for their good service in preserving the ship from Pirats." I don't know what the "ten Candy Priviledge" they were given as a reward would involve. As it was equivalent to 2¼ metric tonnes of black pepper, I imagine it was worth quite a bit.
Pewter Punch bowl, London 1702
In July 1703, Allen Catchpoole wrote from the newly established colony on the main island of the Condore archipelago, now called the Côn Đảo archipelago and lying offshore from the most southerly coast of Vietnam. He described a fruit that was almost certainly the very popular langsat, Lansium parasiticum.
The other is biger than a large musket bullet, of a greenish colour before tis ripe but then turns yellow : within this outside rind, which is pretty thick and soft, is the fruit, being three or four cloves inclosed in a thinn skinn, haveing in the midle a kernell between which skinn and kernell is the substance of the fruit, which is as juicy as the true grape. Some of these are redish when the outward rind is taken off, but they are generally white. Lemonade or Punch made with this juice is better than those made with Limes, Lemons or their juices, for it has a much more pleasant wineish flavour. Experience teaches they are of an astringent nature.Catchpoole also mentioned a wild lime:
Here is also a wilde lime, but its very small, and not fit for use; doubtless it might be brought to good. The Island will beare them, for two trees which Mr Henry Smith sent me from Dingmoy grow very well.Catchpoole asked for an extraordinary good gardener to be sent. Within 2 years of writing this letter Catchpoole and most of the colonists were dead, massacred by their Makassar mercenaries.
On the 26th of September 1704 (though published in 1931), water, lime-juice and arrack were mentioned in a letter as British East India Company supplies sent from Anjengo (Anchuthengu) Fort in Kerala, India. They were intended to supply a salvage operation on the shipwreck of the Neptune, near Cape Comorine (Kanyakumari) at the southernmost tip of India. Most of the cargo was thought to have been taken by the local Indians, as the ship had sunk about 20 yards from shore on the 21st of June. However, the 30 chests of silver and one of gold (worth £5,000 at the time) were possibly still on the wreck. The water, lime-juice and arrack were sent by bulloon, a large, rowed dugout canoe. On the 28th Captain Lestly, in command of the salvage, sent a letter confirming
the Bulloon appeared, and soon satisfyed us, of the necessarys she brought wch. was very well comeClearly the ingredients of punch were a necessity for the crew. The British seem to have given up on salvaging the wreck of the Neptune by the following January.
In 1707 Hans Sloane wrote that, in Jamaica:
The common fuddling Liquor of the more ordinary sort is Rum-Punch, to the composition of which goes Rum, Water, Lime-juice, Sugar, and a little Nutmeg scrap'd on the top of it. This as 'tis very strong, so 'tis sower, and being made usually of the Sugar-Pot bottoms, is very unhealthy and because 'tis cheap, Servants, and other of the poorer sort are very easily fuddled with it, when they come from their Masters Plantations: this, as all other vinous Spirits, puts them into a fast Sleep, whereby they fall off their Horses in going home, and lie sometimes whole nights expos'd to the injuries of the Air, whereby they fall in time with Consumptions, Dropsies, &c. if they miss Apoplectic Fits.In the next volume, also published in 1707, Sloane gave a full account of the Lime-tree.
Rum is made of Cane-juice not fit to make Sugar, being eaten with Worms in a bad Soil, or through any other fault; or of the Skummings of the Coppers in Crop time, or of Molossus and water fermented about fourteen days in Cisterns, and then distill'd off, of which an account will be given hereafter. It seems to be much the same with Rack, or Arac (made in the East-Indies of Rice) and other vinous Spirits, the Creatures of Fermentation, and has an unsavoury Empyreumatical scent [smelling of charred organic matter], which is endeavour'd to be taken off by Rectification, mixing Rosemary with it, or after double Distilling letting it stand under Ground in Jars.
The Juice is squeez'd out of the ripe Fruit in a Press that they have for that purpose, and after standing some Time to clear it self in the Cask, is sold to be sent over into Europe."The juice was considered too cold, so children and the aged were advised to avoid it. The juice would not only cure scurvy but also snake-bite, gonorrhoea, ringworm, scabs and other skin diseases. The seeds, peel and essential oil would counter all cold poisons and worms.
As well as in Jamaica, Sloane summarised other reports that the lime was found in Valderas, Puerto Rico, Puna Island off Ecuador, Brazil, Guam, Java, Surat in India, Aden and Mocha (now in the Yemen), Comoros, Cape Verde and around the River Gambia in Africa.
In 1696 Sloane had given a bibliography of descriptions of the lime. Not very helpful, how am I supposed to find "Hughes p. 48" and such-like? I did, eventually, but not with his help.
In 1712, A Cruising Voyage Round the World by Captain Woodes Rogers was published. It was not the leisure cruise the title implies. Rogers was a privateer out to loot ships of rival nations and ransom their crews. These were the last voyages of William Dampier, see above for his descriptions of punch and limes published in 1697. Woodes Rogers recorded the events of the voyage in his captain's log.
In 1709, in the South Atlantic, near the Falkland Islands:
January 1 Fresh Gales of Wind from the W N W. to the W S W. with Fogs, but indifferent smooth Water. This being New-Year's Day, every Officer was wish'd a merry New-Year by our Musick; and I had a large Tub of Punch hot upon the Quarter-Deck, where every Man in the Ship had above a Pint to his share, and drank our Owners and Friends Healths in Great Britain, to a happy new Year, a good Voyage, and a safe Return.
Many of the crew contracted a malignant fever after raiding Guiaquil, now Santiago de Guayaquil in Ecuador. Several died within the next weeks. Rogers decided punch might help.
May 23 ... ... Finding that Punch did preserve my own Health, I prescribed it freely among such of the Ships Company as were well, to preserve theirs.In 1710, just arrived at Batavia, now called Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia:
June 30 ... ... I was a Stranger to the Humours of our Ship's Company. Some of them were hugging each other, others blessing themselves that they were come to such a glorious Place for Punch, where they could have Arack for 8 Pence per Gallon, and Sugar for 1 Peny a Pound; others quarreling who should make the next Bowl, for now the Labour was worth more than the Liquor, whereas a few Weeks past, a Bowl of Punch to them was worth half the Voyage.
In 1711, Fort St George was described in An Account of the Trade in India: Containing rules for good Government in trade, Price Courants, and Tables: etc. by Charles Lockyer.
Hence every one has it in his Power to eat well; tho' he can afford no other Liquor at Meals than Punch, which is the common Drink among Europeans, and here made in the greatest Perfection.
...; but those that love a Punch-house prefer Billiards, and Back-gamon to them all:
Lockyer visited the East India Company island of St Helena for a week and gave his impressions.
The Chief Town is in Chappel Valley, where there may be 40 or 50 Houses contiguous; of which the Punch-Houses are the most remarkable, being like so many Spunges to loose Sailers; especially where there is a handsome Girl or two in the Family to humour them. These, when they appear in their white Aprons on the Hills, are very agreeable Objects to their Johns, as they come into the Road. They have, many of them, pretty begging Faces, and are dress'd tolerably well while Ships are there; but as soon as ever they are gone, the Scene is alter'd, and they can run up and down the Country bare Foot, as if they had never been shod.
On the 15th of August 1712 a murder was committed by a soldier of the East India Company who had been refused by a punch-house keeper because they were closed. A letter from Fort St David recorded the tragedy. After the Corporal escaped the fort sometime in the evening...
...about 10 at night he came to ye. Punch house door, & knockt saying he wanted some Punch, Cordeiro the Portuguez man that looks after the house made answer that he had no Batavia Arrack, then Starkey bid him make some of Columbo, but Cordeiro made answer he would make none, upon this Starkey made severall attempts to force Open the Punch house door, Swearing he would Cutt Cordeiros Gutts out, when Cordeiro heard him in such a violent Passion he called out, and bid someone run to ye. Fort and call for a Guard, a poor Fellow that drawes Toddy happened at ye. same time to be near ye. Punchhouse, whom Starkey with his Sword gave 70 or 80 Stabs, of wch. wounds he dyed about 10 a Clock next morning, Starkey after Stabbing the man Surrender'd himselfe a Prisoner to ye. Guard, giving his Sword saying he had murthered a man, and that his Conscience flew into his Face, he is secured in ye. Cockhouse, at the Fort in Iron waiting your Honr. &ca. further orders about him.
In 1719, The Tryals of Major Stede Bonnet and other pirates was published. Major Bonnet had only been a pirate since 1717. As he was rather well-off, he had started by commissioning a ship from a local shipbuilder on Barbados rather than the traditional stealing, piracy or mutiny. He did not become a pirate out of necessity but because he really wanted to be a pirate. He was what we might now call a pirate wannabe. Bonnet knew nothing of sailing and relied on his crew to run the ship. Bonnet began a short, enthusiastic, surprisingly successful and savage career headlong toward the gallows.
The 35 ton sloop Francis was on a journey from Antigua to Boston, Massachusetts in 1718. Bonnet's ship Revenge waylaid them two miles off Cape James, now Cape Henlopen on the south side of Chesapeake Bay. The pirates were, of course, particularly interested in the cargo of sugar, molasses and over 6,000 litres (over 10,000 pints) of rum. Captain Peter Manwareing of the Francis gave evidence at the trial:
They were civil to me, very civil: But they were all very brisk and merry; and had all Things plentiful, and were a-making Punch, and drinking.
James Killing, the mate of the Francis, also testified:
So when they came into the Cabin, the first thing they begun with was the Pine-Apples, which they cut down with their Cutlashes. They asked me if I would not come and eat along with them? I told them I had but little Stomach to eat. They asked me, why I looked so melancholy? I told them I looked as well as I could. They asked me what Liquor I had on board? I told them some Rum and Sugar. So they made Bowls of Punch, and went to Drinking of the Pretender's Health, and hoped to see him King of the English Nation: Then sung a Song or two.
Stede Bonnet was found guilty and hanged in December 1718, at the age of 30.
James Ashley etched by Thomas Worlidge.
"Who at the London Punch House on Ludgatehill 1731
First Reduc'd the Price of PUNCH & rais'd its Reputation"
For more on James Ashley and his fight to bring cheap, good punch to the London public at Ludgate Hill, see the Drinking Cup blog. For details of those prices see Club Life of London by John Timbs, published in 1866.
Please remember to drink responsibly. Piracy, slavery and invading other countries are all immoral and illegal.
A Merry Party
by Jan Josef Horemans the Younger (1714 - 1792)
after William Hogarth's A Midnight Modern Conversation drawn in 1733.
Note the large punchbowl. There are a few other painted versions
of this popular satirical print. Wikipedia
after William Hogarth's A Midnight Modern Conversation drawn in 1733.
Note the large punchbowl. There are a few other painted versions
of this popular satirical print. Wikipedia