Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'll Take Potent Potables for $100, Alex

What would the Low Country of South Carolina be without that potent mix of charm, history and liquor?

While Savannah often gets the honors of being awash in booze (in a genteel way, unlike New Orleans they'll tell you), Charleston is also known for great alcoholic beverages. As I have been browsing my replacement copy of Charleston Receipts since yesterday afternoon, I have been reminded of both the history of Charleston's potent potables and their wonderful variety and flavor. So, let's take a moment to explore some of these great beverages!

The recipe for Regent's Punch dates to 1783 at Lewisfield Planation. Can't you just imagine Lord Rawdon sitting down to this to gird his loins just before the British left Charlestowne for good?
Dissolve 1/4 pound of rock candy in about 1 pint of high grade green tea. Allow to cool and add 1 bottle of champagne, 1/2 bottle of sherry, 1 tumbler of brandy and 1 lemon sliced.
The recipe for Legare Street Punch is pretty simple. For y'all who aren't from South Carolina and specifically SOB (South of Broad) that's pronounced Luh-GREE, not Luh-gair-EH. It's one of those weird mispronunciations that comes about when French Huguenot names run headlong into English filtered through Barbados and Gullah (a creole language).
Mix 1 quart of sauterne and 1 pint of Cognac with 2 quarts of champagne and 1 quart of carbonated water. Pour over ice and serve immediately.
In case you're not a oenophile, Sauternes is a type of white dessert wine.

Charleston is, of course, a port city and has had a long history with rum and rum based drinks. This recipe for a Rum Punch serves up to 140 people!
Mix 1 gallon of brandy and 1/2 gallon of rum with 1 pint of peach brandy and 2 quarts of black tea. Add 2 dozen lemons and sugar to taste. Just before serving add 5-6 quarts of carbonated water depending on how strong you want the punch. The recipe notes you can also add 1 pint of curacao, strawberries, pineapple slices or cherries if desired.
Ratafia is an old drink found in recipes from the various plantations along the Ashley River. This recipe dates to about 1830 and calls for one of my favorite wines, Madeira. I'm particularly fond of Rainwater Madeira and besides Port is my favorite alcoholic drink.

Here's an 1830 Ratafia from Mrs. Mazyck.
Take 1 gallon of best brandy, 1 quart of Madeira wine, 1 quart of muscat wine, 1 pint orange flower water, 3 pounds loaf sugar, 1 pint rose water, 1000 peach kernels. Put in a crock and keep in the sun for 4 to 5 weeks.
A word of caution, as tempting as that sounds, peach kernels contain a fair concentration of cyanide and in large doses can be toxic. I'm not sure how many it would take to get a toxic level, but I think I might try something a little different! I actually may experiment with that one a little bit and let you know the results of an easier and safer alternative.

Finally, what would the south be without the Mint Julep? Oh, yes, this particular drink is as much associated with Charleston as a Hurricane is with New Orleans. Like a Hurricane a Mint Julep is something of an art and if it's not made well can turn into a sickening concoction. (BTW: If in New Orleans, you want to get your Hurricanes at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar and stay far away from the dives on the upper end of Bourbon Street where the tourists and college kids hang out!)

Anyway, here's a recipe for a Mint Julep that is sure to please.
Crush mint leaves and let stand in 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar syrup. Transfer to a chilled silver julep cup or glass and add crushed ice that has been toweled dry. Make sure you don't get the outside of the glass wet because you'll lose the "frost" that is a signature of a fine Julep! Pour in 2 ounces of Bourbon. Stir very carefully making sure you do not touch the glass while stirring. Garnish with another sprig of mint and serve immediately.
So, there you have a few recipes for some of Charleston's more famous potent potables!


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