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History in a Glass: Jungle Juice and Jell-O Shots

By Joey Goar 

Believe it or not, but Jungle Juice and Jell-O shots actually have roots back to the oldest mixed drinks in existence: the punch.

For nearly two hundred years, from the 1670s to the 1850s, the kingdom of mixed drinks was ruled by the punch. Now,this was not your average game day concoction just thrown into a oversized plastic trashcan in hopes that you didn’t put so much Everclear that it melts. The original punch was made with great care by the English. However, they stole the idea – and the name –from someone else. That’s so British!

The Passage of Punch

The word punch is an adaptation of the Hindi word paantsch, which means “five,” because the mixture was usually based on a recipe blending five ingredients: spirits, sugar, lemon, water, and tea (or spices). Punch was brought back to England by sailors of the British East India Company in the early seventeenth century and spread throughout Europe from there. Ornate punch bowls, ceramic or silver, quickly became popular. This was a time before bottling had become more ubiquitous and commonplace. It was the easiest way to serve guests and was thought to be fun and festive.

Punch, in this form, predated even the first use of the word cocktail. During the height of its popularity, the bowl of punch was a commitment and a communion of sorts. Men would sit down to imbibe a bowl of punch, welded together by the fact that the bowl required a large amount of time to consume, and individual values or differences were superseded, simply due to the size. They could almost always be counted on to stay until the end of the flowing bowl, come what may.

Funny enough, a college party these days isn’t much different – for the fact that these modern day sugar packed concoctions require no skill and leave one with a headache rivaling Zeus’ from spawning Athena. Everyone usually still stays until the end still, though, but I think that is mainly from not knowing one’s own limits. Remember boys and girls, do not pass out with your shoes on, unless you want to wake up with some classless artwork to tout around to class or work the next day!

It’s Alive!

If the fact that Jungle Juice actually has history behind it blew your mind, just wait for this one. Jell-O shots actually date back to 1862. That’s right, Jell-O shots actually predate even the Jell-O brand itself, 1897. Jerry Thomas, the first celebrity bartender, wrote a recipe in his 1862 Bartender’s Guide. I guess everything trashy was actually at some point in time classy!

One of the most intimidating, strongest and famous of the punches of yore is the Chatham Artillery Punch. It was said that this concoction was stout enough to stand up to an artillery unit, or two. In 1808, a newly formed Savannah regiment, called the Republican Blues, visited Macon. The modus operandi for many of these old military units was as much social and fraternal as military. Maybe the military threw the first frat party? The Blues’ were greeted with a much fanfare by the Chatham Artillery unit.

A local patriot named A.H. Luce proposed to brew a new punch in their honor, and the Chatham Artillery Punch was born.

  • 12 Lemons
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 750mL Bottle Cognac (Pierre Ferrand Ambre)
  • 1 750mL Bottle Bourbon (Four Roses Yellow)
  • 1 750mL Bottle Jamaican Rum (Appleton V/X)
  • 3 750mL Bottles of Champagne (St. Hillaire)
  • 5 Pounds cracked ice

Instructions

  1. Peel all of the lemons, careful not to catch the pith.
  2. Place the peels in a bowl and muddle with the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Juice 2 cups lemon juice and add to the sugar mixture. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Strain into an empty 750mL bottle and fill the remainder with warm water. Shake.
  5. Pour all but champagne and ice into punch bowl (at least a 2.5 gallon bowl).
  6. Whenever ready to serve, add ice and Champagne. Stir and Serve

 

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