Party Like It's 1795 With This Boozy Philadelphia Punch

America's Founding Fathers sure enjoyed their booze. Paul Revere reportedly stopped for two glasses of rum on his otherwise urgent ride to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams that the British were coming. The Boston Tea Party started at the Green Dragon Tavern, and it seems that the Revolutionaries' plan of action grew bolder as they drank more. George Washington could run up a tab when out with his friends (one of his favorite places was a spot in Philadelphia called City Tavern). It's been recorded that the first President once ordered 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of Claret, and 7 bowls of punch. While it's not known what kind of punch Washington ordered on this wild night, we do know another Revolutionary-era punch that was beloved — Fish House Punch.


The boozy beverage is reported to have been created at the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania. The earliest description is from 1744 and comes from the notes of a Virginia official who creatively illustrates the punch as a "bowl of fine Lemon Punch big enough to have Swimmed half a dozen of young Geese." If you've conjured an image of a flock of birds paddling in a punch bowl, join the club. And apparently the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania was a kind of club, too. It was established in 1732 and members referred to each other as "citizens" of a sovereign state. According to legend, George Washington drank too much Fish House Punch and was hungover afterwards.

How to make Fish House Punch

According to the "Food History Almanac" by Janet Clarkson, the recipe for Fish House Punch was kind of a secret and thus probably changed over time. The first instance of the recipe being written down was in 1873 by Dr. William Camac, the governor of the Schuylkill Fishing Company at the time. Camac explained when he wrote down the recipe that his version was the one of record because past recipes were "thoroughly undrinkable and do no service to the honor of the club that made this beverage famous." Camac's recipe calls for 1 fresh cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of cognac, 1 cup of light rum, 1 1/4 lb. of fine sugar, and 4 1/2 cups of spring water. (Camac warns readers to "never use Philadelphia tap water.")


Next, dissolve the sugar in two cups of water. Strain the lemon juice and add it to the water according to taste. More water is to be used if served over ice cubes — and apparently one of the most interesting aspects of Fish House Punch was that it was presented in a punch bowl with one massive cube of ice; some say it could weigh four pounds. This seems simple to make, so maybe when planning your next 4th of July celebration (or really, any big celebration would benefit from this concoction) whip up a batch of Fish House Punch. But don't drink like the Founding Fathers, or your liver could become confused.