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.