Charles Dickens' Hot Punch

This is taken from a letter Dickens wrote in 1847 where he gave his recipe for punch. Lynne changed one or two directions given in the original recipe that she felt may be dangerous to do today. This is a strong punch. Serve it in small quantities.

  • Zest of lemons, cut into several pieces each
  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups dark rum
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 4 cups very hot water
  • More sugar to taste


1. In a 4-quart saucepan combine the lemon zest, sugar, rum, and the brandy. Warm over low heat.
2. Be sure there's no exhaust fan running. Stand well back as you light the liquid with a long match. When the flames have gone out, stir in the lemon juice and the water.
3. Taste for sugar. Bring the punch to a very gentle bubble, cover completely and cook 10 minutes.
4. Remove the lemon zest. Set aside up to 3 hours, or refrigerate overnight.
5. Serve warm, ladled into handled cups.

Note from Lynne: My own touch here would be a few cinnamon sticks added with the lemon zest.

Adapted from The Charles Dickens Cookbook, by Brenda Marshall (Personal Library, Toronto, 1981).

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