The Golden Bowl
An inspired and amusing exploration of that nearly forgotten British nautical necessity: punch.
The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl
by David Wondrich
$23.95 List Price
'Tis the season, and I suspect there is no one on earth capable of embracing it more festively than David Wondrich. His first book about cocktails, Imbibe! (2007), is a rousing call to the bar in the form of the life and times of pioneering nineteenth-century bartender—and author of The Bartender's Guide—Jerry Thomas, recipes included. To it he now adds the wildly entertaining and fantastically instructive Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl (Perigee, $24). Who knew that a book about the history of a drink that is, after all, just "a simple combination of distilled spirits, citrus juice, sugar, water and a little spice" could be a page-turner? But it is, from the moment when Wondrich quotes an eighteenth-century song I can easily imagine yowling around the Christmas tree in my dining room come December, a dram of something boozy in hand:
You may talk of brisk Claret, sing Praises of Sherry,
Speak well of old Hock, Mum, Cider and Perry;
But you must drink Punch if you mean to be Merry.
I will sing, however, only if Wondrich promises to drop by for a cup of his own Royal Hibernian Punch and belt this little ditty out with me, because I have rarely enjoyed the company of an author as much as I do his. This is largely due to the fact that, in addition to being an enthusiast and a tireless researcher, he is a true romantic when it comes to punch, a man unafraid to wax poetic—or perhaps alcoholic—about the pleasures of providing friends with drink even as he acknowledges the potential pitfalls thereof. "I remember, dimly, one summer