Fish House Punch, also known as Philadelphia Fish House punch, is a delicious and boozy drink made with cognac, aged rum, lemon, and peach brandy or liqueur.
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This large format beverage is perfect for summer gatherings, but I like to enjoy it more than just once or twice a year. So I set out to make a Fish House Punch for one recipe, and it’s no more difficult than making other simple cocktails like the Collins or Paloma.
This recipe is geared towards the home bartender who wants to make one or two glasses of punch, but I’ll include the large batch specs below as well.
Find this recipe and many more classics in my Essential Bar Book For Home Mixologists, available on Amazon!
History of Philadelphia Fish House Punch
There are two popular origin stories for this classic punch, but both agree that it hails from a social club called the State in Schuylkill, aka the Fish House.
The earliest story says that the drink was created in 1732 and always served in excessively large punch bowls. There’s even a tale of first president George Washington over-indulging in the potent punch and having to take a few days off to recover.
Although there are references to large bowls of lemony punch being served at the Fish House much earlier, one story says that the Fish House Punch wasn’t created until the 1850s. The drink was apparently created for the first Christmas party that women were allowed to attend.
No matter how the drink came to be, the combination of aged liquors, lemon, peach, and black tea is a timeless mix that still makes a perfect summer cooler nearly 300 (or is it 200?) years later!
Ingredients, dilution, and substitutions
The classic large format recipe combines lemons, sugar, aged rum, cognac, and peach brandy. The sugar and lemon peels would likely have been combined to draw out the aromatic lemon oils and make oleo saccharum.
Oleo saccharum adds a deeper citrus flavor to cocktails (and even plain old lemonade). The syrup would be added to the freshly squeezed lemon juice and liquors and stirred together in a large bowl.
FH Punch for one ingredients
- Aged rum
- Peach liqueur
- Lemon juice
- Simple syrup
- Chilled black tea or sparkling water
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
To make our punch for one, we want to make sure the recipe can be recreated the same each time. Differences in the amount of oils in the lemon peels could affect how sweet oleo saccharum is, so we’re going to use simple syrup here.
But if you already have some oleo on hand, or enjoy making your own, feel free to substitute and adjust the sweetness to taste.
A classic punch is served in a punch bowl with a large block of ice. Water or black tea would also be added as needed for dilution. For our modern version, I’m opting for chilled black tea, but you could also use seltzer water for a sparkling version.
Peach brandy vs. peach liqueur
The original recipe called for peach brandy, but I’m using a high quality peach liqueur here (Giffard) for ease of replication.
Peach liqueurs are relatively easy to find and add a wonderful flavor. You could also use peach syrup, like my oleo-style Fresh Peach Syrup. You’ll just want to adjust the overall sweetness to taste.
An unexpected variation for the hottest summer days
This past Memorial Day, I wanted to make a light, easy drinking cocktail that would be easy to batch and suit everyone’s tastes.
I used the specs listed below, but instead of rum and cognac, I used 1.5 ounces of vodka per serving!
It’s certainly not authentic Fish House Punch, but it is a wonderful boozy peach tea that the clear spirits drinkers will enjoy. It’s also great and equally light-tasting with a quality white rum in place of vodka.
You might also enjoy these other classic cocktails:
- Vieux Carré
- Brandy Alexander
- Calvados Jack Rose
- Missionary’s Downfall (Tiki Cocktail with Peach and Pineapple)
Fish House Punch (For One)
- 1 oz cognac
- 1 oz aged rum (preferably Jamaican)
- ¾ oz peach liqueur (such as Giffard)
- 1 oz lemon juice
- ½ oz simple syrup
- 2 oz chilled black tea (or sparkling water)
- Combine all ingredients (except sparkling water, if using) in a cocktail shaker and fill it 3/4 with ice.
- Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water, if using.
- Garnish with a lemon wheel and freshly grated nutmeg.
Large Scale Fish House Punch (serves 10)Ingredients:
- 1.5 cups cognac
- 1.5 cups aged Jamaican rum
- 1 cup peach liqueur
- 1.5 cups lemon juice
- 3/4 – 1 cup simple syrup (to taste)
- 2 – 3 cups chilled black tea
- Lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
- Freeze a large ice block. You can create one by filling a large mixing bowl or Bundt pan and freezing it overnight.
- Remove the ice block from the freezer and place it in a punch bowl.
- Pour all ingredients (syrup and tea to taste) over the ice block and stir to combine. Ladle the punch into glasses and garnish with lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg.