The punsch liqueur is something that has been around in Sweden for a very long time, as it was introduced in the mid-18th century when the East India trading company started mixing arrack from Indonesia with sugar and spices. It’s believed that the name punsch comes from “puncheon”, the barrel that the arrack was transported in, or pantj (the Hindi word for five) which supposedly symbolizes the five original ingredients – arrack, sugar, water, tea and lemon juice – when it first became available at Sweden’s public houses, the customer could choose the proportions of each ingredient.
Punsch became wildly popular in Sweden during the 1800s, and was mostly consumed warm as an avec, but the last couple of decades it has become a novelty, kept alive only by student and military traditions, and something to drink with the classic Swedish pea soup on Thursdays.
However, with the resurgence of classic cocktails people found Swedish punsch to be an intriguing ingredient crucial for a number of pre-prohibition cocktail recipes, and American cocktail enthusiasts did their best to get hold of this hard-to-get product from a friend or relative in Sweden, or simply made it themselves with the help of some old recipe. Nowadays people in the US can easily get hold of Kronan Swedish Punsch – made in Sweden primarily for the US market – thanks to Henrik Facile, a Swedish punsch pioneer currently residing in Austin, TX, and Haus Alpenz – and two years ago I noticed that it appeared on many cocktail menus in New York.
Unfortunately punsch is still something of an obscurity in Swedish cocktail bars. Sure, bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts are using it more and more, and there are a number of brands on the market, but most of them are only available on special order – which leads me to Tegnér & Son Punsch which was launched in Sweden in December last year and should be available in most well sorted Systembolaget shops around the country.
Tegnér & Son is a family business founded by Elias Tegnér and associates in 1880, and in the heyday of punsch they had around ten different punsch brands on the market. One of those recipes has now been updated to attract the modern consumer by removing about a third of the original sugar content and adding a splash of aged Caribbean rum – but still using the same supplier of arrack as a hundred years ago.
Nose: Bold and sweet, lots of arrack and bitter orange, molasses and hints of vanilla, tobacco and toffee and maybe also licquorice. Mouth: Sweet and smooth dominated by arrack, burnt sugar, bitterness from bergamot and orange peel and a light smokiness, with a nice, spicy kick of cinnamon as it fades.
It’s a nice and well balanced product, still on the sweet side of course but hey, it’s a liqueur! Tegner & Son’s offering on the market is a delicious punsch for the common Swede – at least compared to the more full-bodied, earlier mentioned Kronan which might be too heavy for some – and I’m pretty sure that Elias Tegnér would be proud of his descendants and their continuation of his legacy.
One obvious favourite is the Doctor Cocktail (60 ml El Dorado 5 yo Demerara rum, 30 ml lime juice, 30 ml Tegnér & Son Punsch – shake with ice, strain into cocktail glass, garnish with lime zest (optional)) which is as simple as it is delicious. The heavy character of demerara or Jamaica rum adds depth, the punsch gives the drink a nice, soothing complexity from the spices and is sweet enough to balance out the citrus.
Next, I wanted to try one of the contemporary drinks from my NYC punsch crawl, and I decided to go for Jeremy Oertel’s Haunted House (30 ml Templeton Rye (the original recipe calls for Rittenhouse), 30 ml Appleton V/X rum, 15 ml Tegnér & Son Punsch, 7 ml ginger syrup, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters – stir and serve over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with an orange twist) and the already rather sweet rye and rum get subtle, spicy notes from the punsch and ginger – nice!
Another classic, which is quite similar to Doctor Cocktail, is the Diki-Diki (60 ml apple brandy, 30 ml Tegnér & Son Punsch, 30 ml grapefruit juice) with the difference that the brandy offers some bright and sweet notes of apple which pairs really well with the funky punsch and slightly more bitter grapefruit (compared to lime). Another winner.
Moving away from dark spirit-based drinks, I found the Biffy Cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book (60 ml Strane London Dry Gin, 30 ml Tegnér & Son Punsch, 30 ml lemon juice – shake well with ice and strain into cocktail glass) and it’s certainly a nice and refreshing drink. The cinnamon and cardamom notes of the gin goes pretty well with the punsch, but for some reason I think that something is missing – there’s no coincidence that all punsch cocktails I found in NYC contained rum – it’s simply a perfect match.
|Mai Tai Punsch|
Last but not least I decided to make a little twist on the Mai Tai, using the punsch both as sweetener instead of the curacao and also substitute for Jamaica rum. Mai Tai Punsch (50 ml rhum Saint-James, 20 ml Tegnér & Son Punsch, 25 ml lime juice, 10 ml orgeat – shake with ice, strain into double Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice, garnish with mint sprig and spent lime shell) and while not as perfect as the original Mai Tai, it still has got some notes of funky Caribbean rum and bitter orange, but with focus on the rhum agricole.