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The popularity of punch is centuries old. East India merchants introduced it to the British in the late 1600s. William Byrd II, who founded the city of Richmond, referred to punch as “a very good, pleasant and healthful drink,” and Virginians enjoyed the beverage at various social gatherings.

Punch is often mentioned in connection with the Washingtons, who served it at many of their receptions and as part of offering a hospitable welcome to guests at Mount Vernon. For example, Julian Niemcewicz, who visited from Poland in 1798, noted that when he arrived, Martha Washington “appeared after a few minutes, welcomed us most graciously and had punch served.”

This sweet and tart libation comes together quickly and easily. Be advised, however, that it needs to be put in the refrigerator for several hours so the ingredients can marry and the punch can chill completely.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.


  • Juice of 5 limes
  • Water as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 4 cups dark rum
  • 2 cups French brandy


1. Mix the lime juice with an equal amount of water in a lidded 1-gallon jar. Add the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Stir in the rum and brandy, mixing until combined. Cover with the lid, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until well chilled.

2. To serve, place ice rings adorned with lime slices (if desired) in a large bowl, and pour in the punch.

Makes about 2 quarts