A Short History Of Punch
Punches are some of the oldest types of mixed drinks invented out of necessity. Early merchant sailors brought tons of beer with them as they voyaged to distant exotic lands. These voyages, often to India, were long, and beer has a relatively short shelf life. Toward the end of each trip, the booze had long gone unpalatably flat or was completely spoiled (This is how IPAs were invented, too. Adding a lot more hops helped preserve the beer and kept it from tasting flat by the end of the trip). Every culture has its local distilled booze, and in India, it was arrack. Arrack is a little rough, so it was mixed with juices, black tea, and sugar to make it taste better. It was brought back to England and spread to other English colonies.
The earliest records of the punch style of preparing drinks date to the early 1600s. By the mid-1800s, you don’t hear much about punches. That’s not to say these ever really fell out of fashion, but this style doesn’t make sense commercially. Around the mid-1800s, saloons started to get popular, and the recipes and information that started to get recorded were saved are the more profitable commercial style of mixed drinks. Some examples of taverns or restaurants made punches, but the technique is mainly used for residential free for all drinking and not pay per drink businesses. Restaurants don’t want to make a ton and then potentially end the night with leftover stock and then need to dump it. Also, you need a bartender there to track how much people drink; it can’t have free for all and expect to get paid correctly, so it makes more sense to have that individual make drinks as ordered. These are more suited for college parties or house parties, or we just wrote the declaration of independence so let’s get drunk parties. Even though I’ve read a few articles about this becoming vogue in the last decade or so, I’ve only ever seen one bar that had one house punch, but almost every house party or DIY wedding I’ve been to has 2 or 3 different punches on hand.