As the name suggests, the Cape Fear Punch owes its christening to the rather ill-famed Southern US men’s club. The club was founded on 3 March 1866 in Wilmington and incorporated on 8 February 1872. It is generally recognized as the oldest social club of its kind in continuous existence in North Carolina and one of the oldest in Southeast US. According to its North Carolina highway historical marker (at Second and Chestnut streets, Wilmington), the Cape Fear Club is the “oldest gentleman’s club in the South in continuous existence.” The original club was largely made up of Confederate veterans, but includes a plethora of members now.
The secret recipe of the Cape Fear punch comes from the gentleman’s club. Containing rye whiskey, Cognac and Jamaican rum, it packs quite a punch, but those who may be adverse to brown liquor will be in for a treat. Cut with green tea, seltzer, lemons and oranges, this punch lacks a boozy taste, and has just the right balance of sweet and sour.
For the base, you’ll need…
750 ml rye whiskey
750 ml water
1/2 cup raw sugar
3 bags green tea
375 ml rum (preferably Jamaican)
375 ml Cognac
4 whole lemons
For the punch, you’ll need…
2 small oranges, thinly sliced
4 small lemons, thinly sliced
2 (750 ml) bottles sparkling wine or Champagne
1 liter seltzer or sparkling water
Ice block (no cubes)
Freshly grated nutmeg
For the base, you’ll have to…
Boil the water, add sugar and stir till warm (190ºF). Place the tea bags in the water and steep for 3 minutes. Add the tea, rum, Cognac and whiskey into a container. Zest the lemons, add the skins and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Reserve zested lemons in the refrigerator.
Strain the base into a large punch bowl. Juice the reserved lemon and add. When ready to serve, stir in the oranges, lemons, sparkling wine and seltzer. Add the ice block and serve with freshly grated nutmeg. (For a spookier version, freeze water in a rubber glove and then remove the glove to create a ghoulish floating ice hand.)
This is not a cocktail in the true sense of the word, but a much needed creation all the same. It is the traditional Indian-style ‘chai’ or tea— served piping hot, sweet and milky, and infused with fragrant spices. In this case, it is spiked with a boozy doze of whiskey.
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