This smooth-drinking white wine- and cognac-based punch is inspired by one described in a poem by the 17th-century English army captain and courtier Alexander Radcliffe. As with many punches, this one tastes the best when chilled by a single large block of ice instead of fast-melting cubes, which water down the punch too quickly.
- 4 lemons
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1 1⁄2 cups sweet white wine, preferably sauternes
- 1 (750-ml) bottle of brandy, preferably VSOP cognac
- 6 cups chilled water
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Using a peeler, peel lemons, taking off as little white pith as possible. Transfer peels to a heavy bowl; reserve lemons. Add sugar; use a muddler or a wooden spoon to vigorously crush sugar and peels together until the sugar turns faintly yellow and slushy (see Mastering Muddling).
- Juice the reserved lemons and add the juice to the bowl along with the peels. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a punch bowl; strain the lemon and sugar mixture into the punch bowl; discard solids. Stir in the wine and the brandy. Chill. To serve, stir in water and place a large block of ice (see Holidays on Ice) in the bowl. Garnish with nutmeg.