Last weekend, husband John and I hosted 50 people at our house for a cocktail party as part of the Boone Family Reunion. The Boones are John’s mother’s family, but before I go any further, you might have two immediate questions:
Q: Do you mean those Boones? The honest-to-goodness Daniel Boone Boones?
A: Yep, although actually more directly through Daniel Boone’s brother, Samuel.
Q: How did you get 50 people into your 2,300-square-foot ranch house?
A: I have no idea. It might have been the promise of copious amounts of alcohol.
I’d never hosted a cocktail party before, and I’m not even a big liquor drinker, but I wanted to do it right. First of all, I knew I had to have bourbon. These are Kentucky people — “Straight Outta Kentucky” as the official reunion T-shirt declared — so there had to be bourbon.
John’s parents took care of that. (Thank you!)
Because the reunion was being held in Lynchburg, Va., this year, I wanted to serve something “Lynchburg-y.” But what? I’m not from Lynchburg or even Virginia. I didn’t grow up with silver and china patterns. My family didn’t have a liquor cabinet or a Confederate ancestor buried in the back yard. We certainly didn’t have an old family recipe for punch.
But thanks to Google, I found a recipe for Jubal Early Punch.
If you’re not from Lynchburg or a Civil War buff, you might be wondering, “Who is Jubal Early?” — more specifically Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early.
Basically, Ol’ Jube was a Civil War commander known for his general badassery. He reportedly had a nasty temper and was known for his aggressive, albeit brilliant, nature on the battlefield, among other qualities. He also did things like threaten to burn down Union towns unless they paid a ransom.
With affection, Gen. Robert E. Lee called Early his “Bad Old Man.”
After the war, Early was what’s been called a “unreconstructed Rebel,” escaping to Mexico and then Canada, rather than swearing his allegiance to the Union. He later returned to the U.S. and settled in Lynchburg, where he died in 1894. He’s buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.
In Lynchburg, there’s a fort named for Early on the aptly named Fort Avenue. Across the street from the fort, an obelisk stands in his honor. There are streets or roads named after Early in West Virginia, Texas and in several Virginia towns.
As for his choice of libation, I don’t imagine Early ever drank this particular mixture of rum, brandy, lemon juice and champagne, but someone named it after him, so it was good enough for me.
Here’s how you make it (and a big thanks to Esquire magazine for the recipe and instructions):
1 cup superfine (quick-dissolving) sugar
1 cup lemon juice
1 quart plus 1 cup water
4 ounces dark rum
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 bottle dry champagne
In a punch bowl (large bowl, big pitcher, whatever), dissolve the sugar in the water and lemon juice. Add the rum and brandy. Let sit for a while, 30 minutes or so, in the fridge or some other cool place. Just prior to serving, add the champagne.
Before making the punch, use a gelatin mold, bowl or anything else that suits your fancy to make a big chunk of ice to float in the punch. The Esquire recipe suggested a “cannonball of ice” but I couldn’t figure out how to make one, short of using a water-filled balloon, and I didn’t know if that was food safe or not.