Greetings from Savannah, Georgia! We’ve been enjoying all the charm of the Hostess City for the last few weeks and sampling all the local fare. This lovely town even has its own signature cocktail dating all the way back to 1859: the Chatham Artillery Punch. Named after the Chatham Artillery, a militia that began in 1786 (and still exists today, as part of a larger military unit), the punch packs a whammy as strong as its namesake.
An 1883 article from The Augusta Chronicle said that the punch is “delightfully palatable, but insidiously powerful,” and continues that “every solitary man…was put under the table by this deceiving, diabolical and most delicious compound.” What a write-up!
This fabulous article goes into detail about how it was concocted:
One of the horse buckets, an ordinary size water bucket, was taken and filled with crushed ice, crushed fine. A quart bottle each of the brandy, rum and whiskey was poured into the ice, and sugar and lemon added. The bucket was then filled with champagne… From that day “Artillery Punch” has been a convivial institution of Oglethorpe’s proud city, and as a vanquisher of men its equal has never been found. It is as mild as a syllabub seemingly, but it conquers like a cyclone.
As we always say, alcohol history is hazy -- so, the above account may or may not be fully true! There are a couple other stories out that about the origins of the Chatham Artillery Punch, but regardless, by the end of the 1800s, it was notorious across Georgia for packing…well, quite a punch!
The drink is still around in Savannah today, and from what we can tell, it’s mostly served at parties by locals. (Apparently, the Savannahians are still fans of the strong stuff!) However, some of the city’s cocktail bars will still serve you a glass, so when we saw it on the menu at Savoy Society, we had to try it. They zhushed up the original by adding yaupon tea, but it is truly tasty, and yes…deceptively strong!
So my friends, if you’re assembling a gathering before the summer ends and are feeling brave (or think that you have an iron grip on enforcing serving sizes!), whip up a batch of Chatham Artillery Punch and party like a Savannahian! It may or may not bestow that famous southern charm upon those that drink it.
Chatham Artillery Punch
Recipe adapted from the original by cocktail historian David Wondrich and published in the Daily Beast
1 750-ml bottle Jamaican rum
1 750-ml bottle bourbon whiskey
1 750-ml bottle Cognac
3 750-ml bottles chilled Champagne
Peel of 9 lemons
18 oz fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
2 ¼ cups sugar
The day before you need the punch, put the lemon peels (preferably cut in long spirals) and the sugar into a 2-quart Mason jar. Seal, shake and let sit overnight. The next morning, add the lemon juice to the jar, shake well to dissolve sugar and refrigerate.
Half an hour before the party, fill a 3-gallon punch bowl halfway with ice. Add the shrub (the contents of the Mason jar), peels and all, the rum, the bourbon and the brandy. Stir well. Five minutes before the party, add the bubbly and stir briefly. Ladle out in 3-oz servings.
Sip & enjoy! Let us know how it goes!