Charles Dickens’s Punch

Reprinted with permission from The Essential Cocktail Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Drinks with 150 Recipes, Edited by Megan Krigbaum copyright 2017. Photographs by Daniel Krieger copyright 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

There are few things more Dickensian than a bowl of punch. A great lover of drink, Dickens wove spirits into his writing repeatedly and even conceived of his own punch: this cheek warming mix of Cognac, rum, citrus, and sugar that is “cooked” by setting it on fire.



  • 3/4 cup sugar, preferably demerara
  • 3 lemons, peeled and juice reserved
  • 2 cups rum, preferably Smith & Cross
  • 1 1/4 cups cognac, preferably Curvoisier VSOP
  • 5 cups black tea (or hot water)

Garnish: lemon and orange slice, freshly grated nutmeg

  1. To an enameled cast-iron pot or heatproof bowl, add sugar and lemon peels. Muddle peels and sugar together to release citrus oils.
  2. Add rum and Cognac to the sugar. Light a match, and, using a heatproof spoon, pick up a spoonful of the spirit mix. Carefully bring the match to the spoon to light, then bring the lit spoon back to the bowl. Let the spirits burn for about 3 minutes. The fire will melt the sugar and extract the oil from the lemon peels.
  3. Extinguish the fire by covering it with a heatproof pan. Skim off lemon peels. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and add hot tea.
  4. Ladle into glasses over ice. Garnish with citrus slices and grated nutmeg.

Tagged: Charles Dickens