Jerry Thomas ran bars from San Francisco to New York throughout the 1800s. Today he's like the Julia Child of cocktail-makers. His 1862 book How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion was the first in the U.S. to compile, as he put it, “clear and reliable directions for mixing all the beverages used in the United States.”
Fun fact: it appears that the original version scanned for Google books was transferred from Harvard’s library to the women’s archives at Radcliffe in 1960, so perhaps some classy co-eds stirred up this Gin Punch rather than beer-bonging Keystone Light in their dorm rooms like the rest of us.
I skipped Jerry's tip for extracting “the ambrosial essence of the lemon” with what sounds like a sensual citrus massage, but if you want to give it a shot yourself it's here.
Tips for the lazy boozer:
•I’m pretty sure that by “old gin” Thomas didn’t mean a bottle that’d been hanging around for a couple years, but rather a lightly sweetened English gin, like Old Tom. But I’d go Beefeater or Bombay on this one. I can’t vouch for the Old Tom yet, so leave a comment if you’ve tried it!
• MATH TIME! A half-pint of gin = one cup.
• A gill is 4 ounces. Since no one really wants that much maraschino, ever, feel free to omit.
• I wasn't feeling that... sensual, so I used a Microplane for the lemon rind after I juiced the lemons instead of Tom's massage.
• "Syrup" means simple syrup. Make by mixing a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water in a saucepan, bringing it to a brief boil, and then reducing the heat and stirring so that everything's dissolved. Once cooled, pour the syrup into a jar and use it for the rest of your (drunk) weekend*! (NOTE: It will keep much longer in the fridge.)
*IF YOU'RE FEELING EXTRA FANCY: Put a few springs of fresh thyme in the syrup mixture before you heat it, and let it steep for thyme-infused simple syrup.
• You can still find German seltzer water, but I just used my handy Sodastream machine and made plain tap water-based seltzer. (For the record: it is one of those rare kitchen devices, like a microplane, that completely lives up to its hype.)
• When you garnish with thyme, crumble it between your fingers a little to bring the flavor out first.