Tom's Blog: PUNCH
My parents are both massive nerds. Which is to say they are always reading something, always have some cheeky piece of literature on the go. Proper bookworms, my mum and dad. To the extent that they can legitimately claim that they once lived in a library masquerading as a house.
It’s a self-congratulating feat of heredity, then, that I often reach for a book when I’ve nothing better to do — “which is always,” I can hear them think — and seeing as currently most books within my reach centre around alcohol, I thought I’d share some of the better ones with you.
“Cocktails: A Global History” by Joseph M. Carlin is a solid read for anyone curious to get a grounding in, well, the global history of cocktails. It’s both dense and concise, like carrot cake should be.
What have I learned from this book? Well, it turns out the cocktail is the spiritual descendant of punch — was that obvious to everyone except me? — a posh drink prepared in an even posher bowl and spooned out to yet posher guests at the poshest parties in England and America in the late 1700s. A damn sight posher than the stuff sloshed together at frat parties in 2k19, it was said to have traditionally consisted of five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water or tea, and finally spices.
This rule of five is important etymologically-speaking (yes, I’m about to learn you some language history, sit down and listen, etymology is sexy, fight me) because one major theory suggests that the word “punch” comes from the Hindustani word for the number five, “panch”. A word which, in the inebriated mouths of the East India Company’s workers, is lucky to have survived so well-preserved. The alcohol used most commonly was arak or araq, a cloudy white drink made from grapes and anise in Western Asia, popular in Eastern India and whose name translates from Arabic as “perspiration”… a little bizarre, that, but what a world that would be, perspiring booze. You couldn’t pry me from the treadmill if you tried.
The other major etymological theory, which has the boffins at Oxford written all over it (quite literally, it’s in their dictionary), states that the word comes from “puncheon”, the name given to the barrels used to import rum from overseas on trading ships. Arak/Arabian sweat wasn’t the easiest distilled spirit to come across in the West, so rum/perspiration of the Caribbean was said to have been used instead, hence this theory.
Punch must have been a revelation to sailors and pirates at the time who were used to drinking grog, a drink I’m depressed to learn was simply water mixed with rum. Captain Jack Sparrow romanticises this stuff to the point where I’m ready to extol its virtues from the rooftops as the veritable nectar of the gods, but alas it was simply a method to keep water sterile during long trips at sea.
The moral of the story, then, is that for two centuries everyone at sea was drunk.
have ~ on the go
慣用句。（何かを）〇〇中である様子。例えば、本を読み中（I have a book on the go）とか、英語を勉強中（I’ve got some English study on the go)とか。
to masquerade as ~
when I’ve nothing better to do
a solid read
to get a grounding in ~
it turns out…
to slosh together
to pry (someone) from (something)
the moral of the story is…