Spiced Ruby Punch

Recently I attended the tenth annual Teslacon, a steampunk convention, and one of my roles was an entertainment officer. I sported a bandolier holding vials of a red liquid and a deck of cards, ready to alleviate boredom with a quick game or a quick drink. Many seemed to enjoy the punch, and some asked for the recipe. This seems like an ideal time to try my hand at writing here again.

Hi folks. It’s been awhile.

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The vials contained a clarified spiced ruby milk punch, based on the milk punch made by Cocktail Chemistry (which in turn was based on the recipe by Dan Souza of America’s Test Kitchen, which itself is a variation on the Ruby Punch from Jerry Thomas’s Bar Tender’s Guide from 1862). I first made it for my New Year’s party, staying true to the initial recipe, substituting rum for the Batavia Arrack (solely due to availability). It’s sweet, tart, and delightfully smooth, and it was a hit. I made the same recipe when I provided some drinks for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. Once again, it was a hit, but I wanted to take it further, put a personal twist on it. I’ve always wanted to have a house punch, something premixed for unexpected company—a signature drink.

After some brainstorming, I mixed it up with some spices and a few other changes and premiered it at a Halloween party. Although I stayed home with my son, I sent the punch along anyway and received good feedback from those that tried it. Buoyed by the positive reception, I made it again for Teslacon.

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Clarified Spiced Ruby Milk Punch

  • 2 cups brewed English Breakfast and hibiscus tea
  • 5 cloves
  • 30 coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise pod
  • ⅔ cup rum
  • ⅔ cup ruby port
  • ⅓ cup demerara sugar
  • 2 ⅔ oz grapefruit juice
  • 2 ⅔ oz lemon juice
  • 1 cup whole milk*

Brew English Breakfast and hibiscus tea together with the cloves, coriander seeds, and star anise pod, for about five minutes. Add demerara sugar and stir to combine, then set aside to cool. If you’d like a spicier punch, leave the spices to steep to taste as the sweetened tea cools. Once cool, add the grapefruit juice, lemon juice, rum, and port, then pour the whole mixture slowly into a large container with the milk. Set aside for at least an hour, then strain the punch through cheesecloth once to collect the curds, then filter through the curds again. Finally, finish by straining through a coffee filter, then store in the fridge.

This punch is sweet and tart like its predecessors, but it’s also warm and complex. The deep berry and stonefruit notes in the port are punctuated by the hibiscus and grapefruit, and the spices warm everything up. And, of course, it’s perfectly smooth and crystal clear. I used 7 year Flor de Caña in this batch because that’s what I had on hand, but I’m interested in trying it with the original Batavia Arrack and with other rums to see how it affects the final product.

Overall, I’m very happy with how this punch turned out. It’s accessible, layered, and most importantly delicious. It was well-received at the convention. It looked great in the bandolier, and people seemed to like it as well. Plus, it was an excellent conversation starter. All good qualities of a house punch. If you stop by, I’ll be sure to have a glass ready for you.

*: While the curds are removed from the punch, the lactose remains in the cocktail. This can be made with nut milk as well, but as tested by Cook’s Illustrated, it doesn’t produce the same results. If you try it, I would love to hear how it turns out!

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