Punch, Toddy, Grog & Co. – Part 3: Punch – An English Fashion

Punch - Titelbild 2.

We have shown that punch was a popular drink among seafarers. It quickly became popular in England and in better society as well. We cite some illustrative examples.

The Christmas Party of the First Lord of the Admitrality

By 1695 at the latest, punch was also an acceptable drink for the upper classes and the admiralty. The Farmer’s Magazine, published in London, reported in 1839 on a celebration that took place in 1695, quoting a text from Francis Moore’s “Vox Stellarum Being an Almanack for the Year of Human Redemption“, published in 1711: [15]

The Farmer's Magazine. January 1839, page 46-47.
The Farmer’s Magazine. January 1839, page 46-47. [2-46] [2-47]

CHRISTMAS OF OLD. — An account of Admiral Russel’s punch-bowl, and of his noble treat at Cales, alias Cadiz, in Spain, on Christmas-day, in the year 1695, according to the relation of Dr. Oliver, who was present at the entertainment: — There was in the middle of a garden of lemons and oranges (which garden belonged to Don Pedro Velasco, Governor of Cales) a fountain which was set with Dutch tiles in the bottom and sides, and was made as clean as a Japan punch-bowl. In this fountain, on Christmas-day, was poured six butts of water, half a hogshead of strong mountain Malaga wine, two hundred gallons of brandy, six hundred weight of sugar, twelve thousand lemons, and nutmegs and sugar in proportion. The Admiral hired the governor’s house, belonging to the garden, and resided there all the winter. He invited all the English and Dutch merchants and officers, belonging to the fleet to dine with him; there was one hundred dishes of fresh meat, besides many other dishes of rarities; but such a flesh-feast was never seen in Spain before. He also roasted an ox for the entertainment of the company. Dinner being ended, they marched in order to the fountain, or punch-bowl, where on the punch was floating little boat with a boy in it, and cups to serve it out to the company. The Admiral began the allies’ healths; and having drank what they thought fit, they drew off, and in went the mob, with their shoes and stockings and all on, and had like to have turned the boat, with the boy, over, and so he might have been drowned in punch; but to prevent further danger they sucked it up, and left the punch-bowl behind. This is a comical but a very true relation and worth nothing. — From Moore’s Almanack of 1711.” [2-46] [2-47]

In other words, this story was also written in July 1798:

The Monthly Mirror. July 1798, page 15.
The Monthly Mirror. July 1798, page 15. [14-15]

– “A REMARKABLE Bowl of Punch. – On the 25th of October, 1694, a bowl of punch was made at the Right Honourable Edward Russel’s house, when he was captain-general and commander in chief of his majesty’s forces in the Mediterranean sea. It was made in a fountain, in a garden, in the middle of four walks, all covered over head with orange and lemon trees; and in every walk was a table, the whole length of it, covered with cold collations, &c. In the said fountain were the following ingredients, viz. Four hogsheads of brandy, eight hogsheads of water, twenty five thousand lemons, twenty gallons of lime juice, thirteen hundred weight of fine white Lisbon sugar, five pounds of grated nutmegs, three hundred toasted biscuits, and a pipe of dry mountain Malaga. Over the fountain was a large canopy built, to keep off the rain; and there was built on purpose a little boat, wherein was a boy belonging to the fleet, who rowed round the fountain, and filled the cups to the company; and, in all probability, more than six thousand men drank of it” [14-15]

This story is told again and again in the following years with slightly changed words. [5-515] [5-516] [13-14] [18-301]

The quantities given are enormous, and the units of quantity must be interpreted as follows: 1 tun = 2 butts = 2 pipes = 3 puncheons = 4 hogsheads. A hogshead, in turn, is a quantity between 209 and 530 litres. [8] [10] [11] [12] A Hundredweight corresponds to approximately 50.8 kg. [4]

Edward Russell, about 1715.
Edward Russell, about 1715. [7]

So who was Edward Russell? He was born in 1653 and joined the Royal Navy in 1671. In 1689 he was appointed “Admiral of the Blue” by the King and became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1694. He sailed a fleet into the Mediterranean to join the Spanish fleet in blockading the French in the port of Toulon until the end of the war. His fleet was the first to winter in the Mediterranean. He returned to England in 1605 and was ennobled as Earl of Orford in 1697. [6]

He cannot have been happy about the long stay in the Mediterranean, because he wrote about it: “Could I have imagined this expedition would have been detained here so long, I would much rather have choosen to live on bread and water. … The business of the conducting part is so terrible … that I am at present under a doubt with myself whether it is not better to die”. [9-173]

One can understand his frustration, for until then the men had been used to leaving the theatre of war every year to enjoy the winter season in London. [9-171] As we can see, he also knew how to enjoy the Christmas season in Cadiz.

A fashionable drink also in London

Anonymus (John Oldmixon): The British empire in America, 1708, page 92.
Anonymus (John Oldmixon): The British empire in America, 1708, page 92. [16-92]

After the nobility had taken to punch, it is not surprising that punch eventually enjoyed great popularity in England. This was also reported by John Oldmixon in 1708: “The Lime Tree in Barbadoes is like Holly Bush in England. Fifty Years ago the Planters made Hedges of them about thier Houses; and their Prickles serv’d for a Fortification against the naked Negroes. It grows 7 or 8 Foot high, full of Leaves and Fruit; the former like those of a Lemon Tree; and the Fruit resembles a Lemon so much, that at 3 Yards Distance they can’t be distinguish’d one from another. The Juice of this Fruit, since Punch has been such a fashionable Drink in England, has sold in great Quantities at good Rates, and is now a staple Commodity, some Tuns of it having been imported at London, and other Ports of England and Ireland, in a Year.[16-92]

Ephraim Chambers: Cyclopaedia, 1728, page 910.
Ephraim Chambers: Cyclopaedia, 1728, page 910. [1-910]

Ephraim Chambers also confirms the popularity in 1728 and reports: “PUNCH, is also a sort of compound Drink, frequent in England, and particularly about the Maritime Parts thereof; tho’ little known elsewhere.[1-910]

The Punch – A Parliamentary Dispute

Charles Tovey: British & foreign spirits. 1864, page 262-264.
Charles Tovey: British & foreign spirits. 1864, page 262-264. [17-262] [17-263] [17-264]

Another report also confirms the popularity of punch in the 1730s: “Punch, Rum Punch, occupied a prominent position in our parliamentary history, and a reference to the debates in 1736 are well worth persual. In that year a clause was proposed for excepting Punch from the Bill for preventing the sale of spirituous liquors. This clause provided that all spirits “to be made into the liquor commonly called Punch” should be exempt from duty; the vendor however must have been first licensed to sell Wine, Beer, Ale, or other liquors. The Punch, moreover, must be made or mixed with two third parts water at the least, in the presence of the buyer; not less than a pint of Spirit must be sold in it, and that not “at a less price than 5s per gallon;“ on a penalty of £5 for every offence. Such were the main provisions of the clause, which elicited a debate reported with approximate exactness in the journals of the day. The arguments in favour of the clause were based upon “the present declining state of our sugar colonies.” It was represented that the fields of rival colonies were new and fertile, whilst theirs were worn out with labour; their rivals were almost free from taxes, whilst our colonists were heavily loaded with taxes both upon exports and imports, and that in their hour of need they ought to be relieved from present disadvantages rather than oppressed by fresh discouragements. Not only, it was added, would the prohibition of Punch affect the consumption of Rum, but also that of sugar. “We know,” continued the speaker, “that our people, especially those of the middling sort, do not much like entertainments at one another’s houses, they like to be at a public-house upon an equal footing and a fair club; and therefore we cannot suppose that the consumption at people’s own houses will amount to near the quantity that was formerly consumed; on the contrary we may expect that people will go to public-houses as formerly, and there drink Wine instead of Punch, so that we are doing what we can to drive the people from the use of liquor which is almost wholly produced by the labour and industry of our own subjects, to the use of a liquor which is entirely produced by foreigners, and a great part of it by foreigners with whom we have not at present, I believe, all the reason in the world to be perfectly well satisfied.” To this the answer was “even the use of Punch has, of late years, become very excessive. It is well known how considerably the number of our Punch-houses has increased within these few years, and how much they have been frequented by persons of all ranks and degrees, especially since the methods of retailing Punch in so small quantities and at so cheap a rate has begun to be practised.” For the disadvantages to which our colonies might be subjected, a full compensation, it was suggested, might be provided for in a separate bill. If Punch were exempted, every sort of spirituous liquor would, it was urged, be retailed under its name. The clause was lost by a considerable majority.[17-262] [17-263] [17-264]

This discussion of the law confirms that by the 1730s punch had become an important commodity in England and was drunk by all classes in numerous punch houses.


There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the punch is an English invention. But is this really the right conclusion? Couldn’t it still be an Indian invention? The next post in this series will deal with this question.

  1. https://archive.org/details/Cyclopediachambers-Volume2/page/n191/mode/2up/search/punch?q=punch E. Chambers: Cyclopaedia: or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences; containing the things signify’d thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine: The figures, kinds, properties, productions, preparations, and uses of things natural and artificial; The rise, progress, and state of things ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial: With the several systems, sects, opinions, &c. among philosophers, divines, mathematicians, physicians, antiquaries, criticks, &c. Volume the second. London, 1728.
  2. https://archive.org/details/farmersmagazine00lond/page/46/mode/2up?q=mob The Farmer’s Magazine. Vol. II, No. 1. London, January 1839.
  3. https://archive.org/details/dasbritischereic00oldm_0/page/838/mode/2up?q=%22lime+juice%22 Anonymus (John Oldmixon): Das Britische Reich in America Worinnen enthalten die Geschichte der Entdeckung, der Aufrichtung, des Anwachses und Zustandes der Englischen Colonien Auf dem festen Lande und den Insuln von America. Der zweyte Theil Welcher in sich begreift Eine Beschreibung des Landes, des Erdbodens, der Himmels-Luft, der Früchte und Handlung von Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincents, Dominico, Antego, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Christophers, Barbuda, Anguilia, Jamaica, Bahama und Bermudas. Nebst Fortsetzung dieser Geschicht und der Veränderung des Staats und der Handlung solcher Colonien, von dem Jahr 1710. bis auf die gegenwärtige Zeit. Wo bey Gelegenheit auch einige Anmerkungen, welche die möglichsten und nützlichsten Mittel anzeigen, wie man diese Pflanz-Städte in einen blühenden Zustand setzen, und für ihre Sicherheit Sorge tragen sol, beygefüget werden. Mit Land-Charten des berühmten Hn. Molls versehen, und nach der neuesten Herausgebung von 1741. aus dem Englischen ins Teutche übersetzet von Theodor Arnold. Lemgo, 1744.
  4. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredweight Hundredweight.
  5. https://archive.org/details/funformillionorl00bull/page/514/mode/2up?q=%22lime+juice%22 Anonymus: Fun for the million, or, The laughing philosopher, consisting of several thousand of the best jokes, witticisms, puns, epigrams, humorous stories, and witty compositions, in the English language, intended as fun for the million. A new Edition, London 1835.
  6. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Russell,_1._Earl_of_Orford Edward Russell, 1. Earl of Orford.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gibson,_Edward_Russell.jpg Admiral Edward Russell, 1653–1727 by Thomas Gibson, painted c. 1715.
  8. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tun_(Einheit) Tun (Einheit).
  9. https://archive.org/details/englandinmediter0000corb/page/172/mode/2up?q=%22I+am+at+present+under+a+doubt+with+myself+whether+it+is+not+better+to+die%22 Julian S. Corbett: England in the Mediterranean. A study of the rise and influence of British power within the straits, 1603-1713. Vol. II. London, New York and Bombay, 1904.
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogshead Hogshead.
  11. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogshead_(Einheit) Hogshead (Einheit).
  12. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butt_(Einheit) Butt (Einheit).
  13. https://archive.org/details/navalchronicleco12londiala/page/14/mode/2up?q=fountain Anonymus: The Naval Chronicle, for 1805: containing a general and biographical history of the royal navy of the United Kingdom; with a variety of original papers on nautical subjects. London, 1805.
  14. https://books.google.de/books?id=48sPAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=%22In+the+said+fountain+were+the+following+ingredients%22&source=bl&ots=uE_FxNxwYU&sig=ACfU3U1uyhqfAHMHJfKLmv4eih4EKAZ0Xw&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwibzoKW-ofuAhUSBWMBHWGBCl0Q6AEwBHoECAIQAg#v=onepage&q=%22In%20the%20said%20fountain%20were%20the%20following%20ingredients%22&f=false The Monthly Mirror: Reflecting men and manners. Vol. VI. London, July 1798.
  15. Unfortunately, the reference has been lost and I can no longer reconstruct where this information came from.
  16. https://archive.org/details/britishempireina04oldm/page/114/mode/2up?q=punch Anonymus (John Oldmixon): The British empire in America, containing the history of the discovery, settlement, progress and present state of all the British colonies, on the continent and islands of America. The second volume. Being an account of the country, soil, climate, product and trade of Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincents, Dominico, Antego, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Christophers, Barbuda, Anguilla, Jamaica, the Bahama and Bermudas Islands. With curious maps of the several places done from the newest surveys. London, 1708.
  17. https://books.google.de/books?hl=de&id=ZxoZAAAAYAAJ&dq=gin+alcohol+content&q=punch#v=snippet&q=punch&f=false Charles Tovey: British & foreign spirits: their history, manufacture, properties etc. London, 1864.
  18. https://archive.org/details/s1id11855870/page/300/mode/2up?q=1694 The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction. No. XIX. Saturday, March 8, 1823.

explicit capitulum


Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

0 comments on “Punch, Toddy, Grog & Co. – Part 3: Punch – An English Fashion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *