Riverside Fire Society Punch
Bartender Al Culliton’s woodsy take on a daiquiri brings in green tea for an ideal drink to sip around the campfire
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During the pandemic, Al Culliton’s pod would make regular trips to the river to build a campfire and pass the time. The group’s frequent hangs inspired Culliton to commemorate the gatherings with their own official drink. Punch, as they point out, has been made for a crowd ever since it originated nearly 400 years ago, and “there’s a long and illustrious tradition in this country of various clubs and associations having their own signature punch,” Culliton says.
Culliton’s Riverside Fire Society Punch is a balance of spirit, sugar, citrus, and spice, with decidedly tropical roots; Culliton describes the flavor profile as “that of a zingy daiquiri, brought down to earth by woody kukicha tea.” (While kukicha tea isn’t always readily available in grocery stores, it can be procured easily from any number of online sources.) It’s that combination of festive inspiration and earthy flavors that make it the perfect drink to batch-make at home, then pour for your group by the fire, no punch bowl or club association required.
Riverside Fire Society Punch Recipe
Makes 24 fluid ounces
2 kukicha tea bags, or ⅛ ounce (4 grams) loose-leaf kukicha tea (if you can’t find kukicha, substitute oolong or an earthy black tea)
1 ⅛ cup (9 fluid ounces) white rum, preferably aged, such as Denizen, Probitas, or Plantation 3 Star
½ cup (4 fluid ounces) Ginger Lime Syrup (see recipe below)
¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) lime juice
1 nutmeg (optional)
Steep the tea in 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) of hot (170-degree) water for 4 minutes. Discard the tea bags or strain the tea. Pour into a large jar.
Add the rum, ginger lime syrup, and lime juice to the tea. Screw on the lid and store in the refrigerator or cooler for up to 3 days.
To serve, gently swirl the cocktail in the jar before pouring it into small jars or mugs. Add an ice cube or two to each and, if you like, grate fresh nutmeg on top.
Ginger Lime Syrup
Makes about 2 cups
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest the limes using a microplane; this should yield about ⅓ cup zest, not tightly packed. Put the zest and ginger in a food processor or blender and set aside. Squeeze the limes and set aside the juice to be used in the Riverside Fire Society punch.
In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine the boiling water with the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add to the food processor or blender and blend for 30 seconds.
Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean jar. Let cool in the refrigerator, cover, and store for up to 6 weeks.
Al Culliton is a writer, bartender, and cocktail historian based in western Massachusetts. Dina Avila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning