This 300-Year-Old Cocktail Recipe Still Packs a Punch

The festive party staple gets a delicious update.

A glass of Hannah Woolley Punch.

Photographer: Ted Cavanaugh for Bloomberg Pursuits; Food Stylist: Brett Kurzweil

Holiday time calls for punch, and the best recipe comes not from a trendy speakeasy but a 17th century Englishwoman, Hannah Woolley. Her 1670 domestic-advice best-seller, The Queen-Like Closet, included a soul-warming mixture of Bordeaux, brandy, nutmeg, and lemon, which became a favorite of both the working class and the royal family.

The posh Punch Room in the London Edition Hotel is keeping the tradition alive by updating the classic recipe using a piquant Barolo Chinato and hearty merlot. They give it a drier flavor than the overly sweet, fruity profiles of most flowing bowls today. Davide Segat, the Punch Room bar manager, says the ultrasmooth Hennessy Fine de Cognac rounds out the base, which is accented with nutmeg and the acidity of the lemon. A splash of soda water lends effervescence.

“It’s a delicious, wintery, quintessentially British drink,” he says.


Hannah Woolley Punch
Serves 10

17½ oz. merlot
5 oz. Barolo Chinato
7½ oz. Hennessy Fine de Cognac
7½ oz. nutmeg syrup
7½ oz. lemon juice
10 oz. soda water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir, and add a block of ice. Garnish glasses with lemon wheels, mint sprigs, red currant or white currant strings, and a dusting of nutmeg.

*To make nutmeg syrup: Add 1 lb. sugar, 17 oz. water, and the gratings of 1 nutmeg to a pan. Heat over low fire until dissolved and combined.

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