Dr Karsten C. Ronnenberg, after reading the series on the origin of Punch, stumbled across a few interesting details that are worth noting.
I thank him very much for the attention he has paid to the sources. Karsten has discovered something that was not known before. The quotations from Johann Albrecht von Mandelsloh about the Punch given so far have been changed by editing. They no longer correspond to the original. This led to conclusions that must be corrected. I will have to incorporate Karsten’s findings, which are well worth reading, into our own analysis. Before that, I would like to publish them here as a separate contribution. Have fun reading!
Palepuntz and Chinese Whispers – Notes on the Early History of Punch
by Karsten C. Ronnenberg
“Palepuntz“, this funny sounding word, is probably familiar to most who are concerned with the origins of today’s cocktail culture. As peculiar as the term is, it has already raised many questions. However, there is at least agreement that it refers to Punch, which, as the forerunner of the Cocktail, has captivated epicureans for two hundred years. The earliest information about the composition of “Palepuntz” is a passage from the report of the German Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo, who travelled to the Orient in the 17th century. Frequently quoted is the statement that in India the English had gathered to drink “Palepuntz, which is a kind of drink consisting of Aquavita, Rose-water, juice of Citrons and Sugar“.
However, the matter has small blemishes, because the list of ingredients is wrong, it does not belong in India and the drink is not called “Palepuntz“. At first, this sounds more dramatic than it is, but possibly indicates that Punch is not an Indian invention, but was an idea of English sailors (who, however, used to sail diligently to India).
The misunderstandings about the mixed drink that the young Mandelslo mentions three times in his travelogue are closely related to the publication history of the text as well as the naturally Anglo-American dominated literature on the history of the Cocktail. Understandably, mixographers also prefer to work with translations of foreign-language sources in their respective mother tongues. In the case of the travelogue, the English version was penned by the Welshman John Davies in 1662, who had Mandelslo report the following about the evening programme of the English people present shortly after his arrival in Surat, India:
“Some made their advantage of this meeting to get more then they could well carry away, though every man was at liberty to drink what he pleas’d, and to mix the Sack as he thought fit, or to drink Palepuntz, which is a kind of drink consisting of Aquavita, Rose-water, juice of Citrons and Sugar.” 
Davies is quickly exonerated as far as any misinformation is concerned, for in the preface to his translation he dutifully states that he produced the text not from the German original but from a French translation. Apparently this did not detract from the book’s success, because only seven years later a second edition was published in London. 
A retelling was still published in 1931, but its preface lamented the difficult availability of the Davies text. The announced new edition in the “Broadway Travellers” series apparently never happened. 
In any case, we learn from Davies’ preface to the 1669 edition that his French reference had been produced by the Dutchman Abraham van Wickevoort. It is possible that he had already used the Dutch translation published in 1658 and not the German text. Or perhaps he himself was responsible for the Dutch, slightly abridged version. Both possibilities, however, must be relegated to the realm of speculation, since the identity of the Dutch translator is unknown.  In any case, in Wickevoort’s French text it says in the passage in question:
“Il y en avait qui se servoient de cette petite débauche pour en prendre tout leur saoul ; quoique l’on permît à chacun de s’en donner autant qu’il vouloit, & de tremper le vin d’Espagne, ainsi qu’il le trouvoit à propos ; ou bien de boire d’un certain breuvage, composé d’eau-de-vie, d’eau-rose, de jus de citron, & de sucre, que les Anglois appellent palepuntz;” 
“There were some who made use of this little debauch to take all their fill of it; though every one was allowed to give himself as much as he liked, and to dip the wine of Spain, as he found proper; or to drink a certain drink, composed of eau-de-vie, rose-water, lemon juice, and sugar, which the English call palepuntz;“
This was published in Paris in 1659, 15 years after Mandelslo’s death. Significantly, Davies suppressed the reference in his text that it was “the English” who called the drink “palepuntz” – presumably because he thought it was nonsense that must have sprung from the Teutonic talent for foreign languages. In his preface, Wickevoort admits almost casually that he took certain liberties with the original. After all, the editor of the German original, Adam Olearius, had done nothing else, he claims.
However, this is not correct. Since Olearius himself had been part of the German travel group to Persia until Mandelslo left for India, and the two were also good friends, he felt empowered to enrich the original travel report, which he published in 1658 as “Morgenländische Reyse-Beschreibung“, with numerous annotations. These inserts, however, are clearly separated from the actual travelogue: indented in square brackets, in small font size.
Wickevoort was less squeamish and freely edited the Mandelslo text to his own liking. While there are numerous chapter headings in the German edition, Wickevoort suppressed them completely. He also embellished some parts of the report, shortened many things and reassembled some in a different order. In particular, he has condensed the three mentions of “Palepuntz” into one and has unceremoniously moved the famous list of ingredients from Persia to India. In his English translation, Davies apparently stuck to the wording of the French text to the best of his ability, and so the Chinese whispers took their course. With that in mind, we can now turn our attention to the original German-language travelogue and its hero.
In 1636, the young nobleman Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo from Mecklenburg, together with the court secretary Adam Olearius, was a member of a diplomatic legation of Frederick III, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, to the court of the Shah in Isfahan in present-day Iran. Apparently, the Thirty Years’ War, which was rolling tenaciously through Europe, and the difficult manoeuvring between Denmark and Sweden gave the ambitious Frederick enough breathing space to draw up plans for Kiel to become a hub for trade in Persian silk under his rule. After the mission was unsuccessfully aborted in December 1637 because the Germans had snubbed the Shah, Mandelslo did not start the journey home with the others, but set out together with Johann Weinmeister, another member of the German delegation, to eventually travel on to India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Madagascar.
From Gamron, today’s Bandar Abbas 900 km south of Isfahan in the south of the Persian Gulf, the sea route was to take them to Surat in India, 1800 km away. Before their departure, however, Weinmeister succumbed to “Rothe Ruhr” (bloddy flux), an infectious diarrhoeal disease (dysentery) that was rampant at the time. Under the impression of these experiences, Mandelslo wrote about the conditions in the port city:
“Es ist allhier eine sehr ungesunde Lufft, theils wegen der grossen unerträglichen Hitze, theils wegen der mancherley Winde die sich täglich allhier befinden und abwechseln. Daher auff den Engelländischen und Holländischen Schiffen Jährlich viel Völcker sterben, daß sie offt von 100. Personen nicht 50. behalten, und trifft solches Übel zwar den Engelländern welche weichlicher Natur sind, mehr als den Holländern. Es verderben sich auch ihrer etliche selbst mit einem Geträncke, das sie Palepunschen nennen, wird von starcken Brandwein, ZitronenSafft, Zucker und Rosenwasser unter einander gemischet, machet bald truncken, veruhrsachet hitzige Fieber und Rothe Ruhr, daß, wenn sie alsdann nicht wol in acht genommen werden, als die Fliegen hinfallen und weg sterben.” 
“There is a very unhealthy air here, partly because of the great unbearable heat, partly because of the various winds that are here every day and alternate. Therefore, many people die annually on the English and Dutch ships, so that they often do not keep 50 out of 100 people, and this evil affects the English, who are of a softer nature, more than the Dutch. Some of them also spoil themselves with a drink they call Palepunschen, which is mixed with strong brandy, lemon juice, sugar and rose water, soon makes people drunk, causes hot fevers and bloody flux so that if they are not then taken care of, they fall down like flies and die.“
In the index of the German edition, under the letter P, there is the entry: “Palepunschen das Getränck wie es bereitet wird” (“Palepunschen the drink how it is prepared“). What we understand as a list of ingredients was apparently also understood in this way by contemporaries. In addition, we learn in the quoted passage about the negative effects of “Palepunschen” – which admittedly are not entirely medically tenable as far as fever and dysentery are concerned. The “Delights (and Dangers)” of Punch, to which David Wondrich has dedicated his book, already appear here in association with the first list of ingredients. In the French adaptation by Wickevoort, these references are missing. Note the spelling with -sch, which underpins the identification with Punch. The etymological question of whether “bowl of punch” or “pale punch” may remain unanswered here. It should be emphasised that although we are in English company at this point, we are still in the Persian Gulf, far away from India. In this respect, rose water fits wonderfully as an ingredient in the “Palepunschen“, since its use was originally native to the Persian region. However, there is no indication of a decidedly Persian origin of the mixed drink, especially since Mandelslo presents the drinking habits of the locals separately a few lines later:
“Ihr Geträncke ist Wasser und Brandwein aus Datteln und auch Reiß gemachet. Der Schirasser Wein wird in Gläsern dahin gebracht, aber wenig, und ist nicht des gemeinen Mannes Geträncke.” 
“Their drink is water and brandy made from dates and rice. The Shiraz wine is brought there in glasses, but not much, and is not the common man’s drink.“
Not least under the influence of the Mughals, who had established their empire on the Indian subcontinent since the early 16th century, rose water was also known there. Its use in the “Palepunschen” of the English thus initially reflects the lively trade that took them to both Persia and India, where they came into contact with regional products and customs. Whether they had only included one ingredient in their repertoire or the whole recipe cannot be decided on the basis of the travel report.
Speaking of “Brandwein“, Wickevoort had chosen “eau-de-vie” as the translation, which probably corresponded to the French usage. Without a specific reference to its origin in wine or another fruit, however, it could refer to any distillate. In this respect, one cannot blame Davies for choosing “aqua vita” for his translation, although “brandy” would probably have been closer to the original. Without wanting to make any statements about the nature of Mandelslo’s “Brandwein” – except that it was apparently strong – the ubiquitous “aqua vita” has nevertheless caused a certain complication of the facts in contemporary discourse. The fact that Mandelslo specifically mentions brandy made from dates and rice on the same page of the book – as he does again and again later in his account – could suggest that he actually meant brandy made from wine when he simply mentioned “Brandwein“.
We then encounter Palepunschen again on the sea route to India, when the author reports under the entry of 7 April 1638 what drinks the English were carrying on board their ship, the “Swan“:
“Das Geträncke Englisch Bier, Spanisch Sect, Frantz Wein, Indianisch Brandwein, und Englisch streng Wasser, machten gute Palepuntzen.” 
“The beverage English beer, Spanish Sect, French wine, Indian brandy, and English austere water, made good Palepuntzen.“
In its sparse enumeration, the passage leaves much in the dark. As another, deviant punch recipe, it would be strange that it is more likely to be a list of a wide variety of drinks. It may be that “good” here is only to be understood in the sense of a lot and that Mandelslo – although he was by no means a teetotaller – possibly abstained from the dangerous drink. The changed spelling with -tz, which Wickevoort and Davies have adopted and which is also found more frequently elsewhere in the literature, is striking. There can be many explanations for the deviation within the same text. Mandelslo probably did not get around to organising and editing his travel notes himself during his lifetime. Some of his notes may have been added from memory, whether during the journey or after his return. Since there was certainly no dictionary that gave a correct spelling for “Palepunschen” or “-puntzen“, he himself may have been uncertain or indifferent about how to spell the foreign word. Accordingly, Olearius could have reproduced the different spellings he found in the manuscripts faithfully. However, it seems absurd that two different drinks are meant. It remains completely unclear what is meant by “English austere water” (perhaps in the sense that something smells pungent?) and to what extent it is related to “Palepuntzen“. From the on-board drinks menu, we should also highlight the “Brandy“, which is specified here as “Indian“. In the list of ingredients of the “Palepunschen” above, the indication of the origin of the “Brandwein” is missing, which, also against this background, may indicate a brandy that is familiar to German readers. The Spanish “Sect” is not a cava or other sparkling wine. Rather, it is the German equivalent of the English word “sack“, which refers to fortified wine from the Canary Islands or Spain (e.g. sherry). Together with the Indian schnapps and the French wine, the list throws a nice spotlight on the lively trade in goods that the English merchants ultimately also carried out for their own purposes.
After the “Swan” arrived at the Indian port of destination Surat on 26 April 1638, Mandelslo was invited to stay at the local trading post of the English. The global trading interests of the British had led Queen Elizabeth I to sanction the founding of the East India Company on New Year’s Eve in 1600. In 1612, one of the first of many factories in India was established in Surat, which now permanently housed an English crew. The port city in the northwest of the subcontinent remained the headquarters of the company until it was moved to Bombay (today Mumbai), 280 km to the south, in 1687. Mandelslo had already got on well with the English merchants in Persia and was now hosted as a German courtier by the local president as an honoured guest. His evenings with the English usually began with a formal drink:
“Nach diesem fieng ein jeglicher nach seinem Gefallen Gesundheit an, auch ward jeglichem vergönnet aus einem auffgesetzten Krug selbst einzuschencken, und zu trincken so viel er wolte, und möchte einer mit einem halben oder gantzem Rausche zu Bette gehen, wir hatten gute Gespräche und Kurtzweil darbey, diese Lust brachte uns offt, ehe wir es meynten, die Mitternacht an die Hand. Unser Geträncke war alsdann Sect mit Wasser vermischet und Palepuntzen, wobey von allerhand frischen, drögen und eingemachten Früchten auffgesetzet war.” 
“After this, everyone started according to his own liking and health, and everyone was allowed to drink from a jug set up for him, and to drink as much as he wanted, and even if someone went to bed with half or a whole inebrieation, we had good conversations and a good time, and this pleasure often brought us to midnight before we knew it. Our drink was then Sack mixed with water and Palepuntzen, with all kinds of fresh, dry and preserved fruits being brandied.“
It is this part of the narrative that Wickevoort reproduces in a much abbreviated form – and extended by the list of ingredients from Gomran – in his French translation, and which is blithely quoted in modern literature on the subject after the English version. Apparently Mandelslo had successfully overcome his reservations about “Palepuntzen“, which may have been related to his own fortunate recovery from dysentery. We learn nothing about the ingredients here, especially as the brandied fruits are often mentioned in his reports as a popular alcoholic treat among the English. The relative connection with “wobey” does not necessarily mean that the fruit was in the “Palepuntzen“. Once again we encounter the “Sect“, which is here mixed with water. Remarkably, in his English translation Davies used “Sack” for Wickevoort’s “vin d’Espagne” to perfectly link back to the original German text.
Mandelslo beautifully shows that even 400 years ago a good drink could be the lubricating oil in the social fabric and a good idea for a successful evening. The young nobleman was not averse to alcohol and his universal interest in the world as it presented itself to him far from his German homeland also included the different drinks and drinking habits. He was not interested in a technical treatment of the subject, but in a vivid overall view. Fortunately, he rarely missed an opportunity in his travelogue to write about what there was to drink somewhere. This information is as much a part of his narrative as food, clothing, landscape, fauna, customs or the occasional adventures he encountered (insofar as the travelling itself was not adventure enough). In all of this, Mandelslo was always careful to neatly assign what he described to specific groups of people, either the local population and their respective social classes or the English, Dutch and other travellers he encountered. No evidence can be drawn from the silence of the sources, but it would be surprising if he had known “Palepunschen” to be of Persian or Indian origin without pointing it out. Yet in none of the three occurences does he fail to make it clear that the stuff was drunk by Englishmen. Quite obviously, it was closely associated with English seafaring and the ventures of the East India Company.
- The Voyages & Travels of J. Albert de Mandelslo into the East-Indies, Übers. John Davies, London 1662, S. 18, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822038219002&view=1up&seq=5, retrieval 08.02.2023, Übers. Ronnenberg.
- The Voyages and Travells of the Ambassadors sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein to the Great Duke of Muscovy and to the King of Persia, whereto are added The Voyages & Travels of John Albert de Mandelslo from Persia, into the East-Indies, Übers. John Davies, 2. Auflage, London 1669, To the Reader (Vorwort der 2. Auflage), https://books.google.fr/books?id=UPS_NYFKTzwC, retrieval 08.02.2023.
- M.S. Commissariat, Mandelslo’s Travels in Western India (A.D. 1638-9), Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press 1931, S. v, https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.531053/page/n5/mode/2up, retrieval 14.02.2023.
- Beschryvingh van de gedenkwaerdige Zee- en Landt-Reyze, deur Persien naar Oost-Indien, Gedaan van den wel-Ed. Johan Albrecht van Mandelslo, Amsterdam 1658, https://archive.org/details/beschryvinghvand00mand, retrieval 19.02.2023.
- Jean-Albert de Mandelslo, Voyages Célèbres & Remarquables, faits de Perse aux Indes Orientales, Übers. Abraham de Wicquefort, Amsterdam 1732, Spalte 45, https://books.google.co.zm/books?id=guunm4oP1EgC, retrieval 14.02.2023, Übers. Ronnenberg.
- Des HochEdelgebornen Johan Albrechts von Mandelslo Morgenländische Reyse-Beschreibung, Schleswig 1658, Buch 1, Kap. 8, S. 28, http://diglib.hab.de/drucke/275-9-hist-2f/start.htm, retrieval 08.02.2023.
- Schleswig 1658, Buch 1, Kap. 8, S. 28, http://diglib.hab.de/drucke/275-9-hist-2f/start.htm, retrieval 08.02.2023.
- Des HochEdelgebornen Johan Albrechts von Mandelslo Morgenländische Reyse-Beschreibung, Schleswig 1658, Buch 1, Kap. 9, S. 36, http://diglib.hab.de/drucke/275-9-hist-2f/start.htm, retrieval 08.02.2023.
- Des HochEdelgebornen Johan Albrechts von Mandelslo Morgenländische Reyse-Beschreibung, Schleswig 1658, Buch 1, Kap. 11, S. 42, http://diglib.hab.de/drucke/275-9-hist-2f/start.htm, retrieval 08.02.2023.