Chatham Artillery Punch

This potent punch has a rich past.

Chatham Artillery Punch
Photo: Will Dickey
Active Time:
25 mins
Rest Time:
12 hrs
Total Time:
12 hrs 25 mins
Servings:
12

Our great-great-grandparents certainly knew how to party, if this Chatham Artillery Punch recipe is any indication. Named after a cocktail created by a 19th century Savannah-based artillery unit, this ultra boozy punch is tempered by a lemony syrup called oleo-saccharum. We've slightly updated this historical recipe to balance the three types of liqueurs (plus Champagne) called for, so you can safely serve this punch at a party.

Though be warned—a wild time will be had when drinking Chatham Artillery Punch regardless. In 1885, The Augusta Chronicle wrote of the beverage, "as a vanquisher of men its equal has never been found."

Where Is Chatham Artillery Punch From?

In the mid-1800s, a volunteer regiment from Savannah called the Republican Blues visited a fellow regiment in nearby Macon. As young men are apt to do, they decided to throw a party, and every party needs some refreshments. Sergeant A.B. Luce is credited with concocting this punch, which, as the legend goes, he mixed in a horse bucket, filling it with ice, brandy, whiskey, and rum and sweetening it with sugar and lemon. Finally topped with some Champagne and deemed delicious, it was said to knock out every man in attendance. Young men don't change too much.

Ingredients for Chatham Artillery Punch

Chatham Artillery Punch contains black tea, light rum, cognac, bourbon, Champagne, lemon, and sugar. Because alcohol is the star of this recipe, try to use the best quality.

Lemon zest and sugar are mixed and stored for 12 hours or overnight to create oleo-saccharum, a concentrated lemon oil. Oleo-saccharum is fragrant and tart with a real citrus flavor. This component will bring your drink to the next level, but you can use a lemon simple syrup in a pinch. It will help flavor the beverage and balance all the booze.

ingredients for Chatham Artillery Punch
Will Dickey

What Is Oleo-Saccharum?

An ingredient more commonly used in the 19th century for cocktails and punches, oleo-saccharum is homemade lemon oil. Sugared lemon peels are stored in an airtight container for several hours or days to release their volatile oils (which contain their aroma and flavor).

The oil and peel can flavor drinks giving the beverage a more concentrated citrus flavor. This recipe for Chatham Artillery Punch uses the oleo-saccharum to create an intensely lemony simple syrup. This can be easily made at home and adds a bright, tangy citrus punch to any drink.

How to Make Chatham Artillery Punch

Besides the 12-hour standing time to make the oleo-saccharum, this punch is nearly as easy as can be. Here's how to make Chatham Artillery Punch, step by step:

Step 1. Make the Oleo-Saccharum

Pull a vegetable peeler out of your gadget drawer, and peel all 12 lemons. Avoid the pith, however. (That's the white fibrous layer between the peel and the fruit.)

Place the lemon peel in a medium-sized bowl with sugar, and cover the bowl with a lid. Shake vigorously to thoroughly coat the lemon peels.

making Oleo-Saccharine
Will Dickey

Let the lemon peel and sugar stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours; 24 is better. Shake the bowl occasionally to redistribute the sugar and pull out more oil.

After you've made the oleo-saccharum, juice the peeled lemons. You should get about 2 cups from a dozen lemons. Keep the fresh lemon juice chilled in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to finish making the punch.

Step 2. Combine oleo-saccharum and lemon peels

To a large bowl, add the fresh lemon juice and oleo-saccharum. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then, strain the lemon juice mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a large measuring cup or bowl.

a bowl of lemon peels overhead
Will Dickey

Don't throw away the peels! Keep them and use them as a garnish on the punch cups.

Step 3. Make the punch

In a large punch bowl, combine the lemon juice mixture with the black tea and liquors (cognac, rum, and bourbon). Stir to combine, then add the chilled Champagne.

Chatham Artillery Punch
Will Dickey

Finally, add the crushed ice, and place the lemon peels in a bowl for guests to use as a garnish on their punch cups.

What Does Chatham Artillery Punch Taste Like?

This is definitely not a high-school party punch—you know, the sickeningly sweet and Kool-Aid-colored type. During the Antebellum period, punch was the drink de jour, the espresso martini of the day, as it were. While you may expect this drink to be overpoweringly boozy, Chatham Artillery Punch is nicely balanced and lemony sweet. The oleo-saccharum gives a floral and intense citrus punch, and the black tea dilutes the alcohol, though be aware this is still quite a potent bevy.

Editorial Contributions by Alexandra Emanuelli.

Ingredients

Oleo-Saccharum

  • 12 (3 lb. total) lemons, plus more as needed

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Punch

  • 2 cups prepared black tea

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) light rum

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) cognac

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) bourbon

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle chilled Champagne

  • Crushed ice

Directions

  1. Prepare the Oleo-Saccharum: Carefully peel lemons using a vegetable peeler, trying to get as little white pith as possible (you should have about 2 cups of lemon peel strips). Place lemon peel strips and sugar in a large airtight container, and shake until mixture is combined. Let stand at room temperature until sugar begins to dissolve and flavors infuse, at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours, shaking occasionally. Juice peeled lemons, plus more as needed, to yield 2 cups fresh juice. Chill in a separate airtight container until ready to use.

  2. Prepare the Punch: Add lemon juice to lemon peel strip mixture, and whisk until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large glass measuring cup, reserving 12 lemon peel strips for garnish. Discard remaining lemon peel strips.

  3. Pour 2 cups lemon juice mixture (Oleo-Saccharum), tea, rum, cognac, and bourbon into a large punch bowl, stirring to combine; add Champagne, and fill with crushed ice (about 12 cups). Garnish each serving with a reserved lemon peel strip.

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