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June 2008 - Bombay Government Punch

This month I thought we’d try a rum drink.  I am not a big rum fan….blame high school grad night, a 26-er of rum and a few bottles of coke ……can’t even smell the stuff now.  But I will be brave and try this…the history is interesting. 

What is Bombay Government Punch? According to Imbibe! by David Wondrich and the Chow.com web site:

The precise proportions for this recipe are taken from the 1694 regulations the English government put out for Bombay punch houses, which mandated “if any man comes into a victualling house to drink punch, he may demand one quart good Goa arak, half a pound of sugar, and half a pint of good lime water, and make his own punch.”

OK…but what is Goa Arak?

According to Wikipedia: The milky coconut sap is taken from the flowers of palm trees before they bloom. It ferments quickly to become a mildly alcoholic drink called "toddy" or "palm wine" which is distilled in vats made from wood, usually halmilla or teak, to produce a spirit whose taste is usually described as somewhere between whisky and rum. Originally from South India, where the toddy is called kallu, today coconut arrack is mainly produced in Sri Lanka. It is generally distilled to between 33% and 50% alcohol by volume (66 to 100 proof).

Coconut arrack is traditionally taken straight or with water; it is also taken with ginger ale, cola, soda or lemon-lime soda, and as a component of various cocktails.

Chow.com adds that:

Goa arak was made from coconut-palm sap, but sugar-cane arrack and then rum were natural substitutes. The further substitution of cognac for part of the rum or arrack was common as early as the 1680s, and indeed soon became the preferred way of making it. The addition of a goodly amount of water or tea is also both traditional and extremely sensible.

If you can’t get the arrack, substitute 1 1/2 quarts rum or 1 (750-milliliter) bottle of rum and 1 (750-milliliter) bottle of VSOP-grade cognac.

Here’s a couple of recipes:

Bombay Government Punch (1)


2 cups Demerara or turbinado sugar

7 cups water

12 limes

16 ounces Batavia arrack

1 quart dark, funky rum

Grated nutmeg, for garnish


To prepare, first stir 2 cups of Demerara or turbinado sugar in 1 cup water over a low flame until the sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes). Let this cool.

Then squeeze 12 limes and combine the juice in a large bowl with the sugar syrup and stir. Add 16 ounces Batavia arrack and 1 quart dark, funky rum and top off with 1.5 liters/48 ounces water. Stir again and refrigerate.

Half an hour before serving, add a large block of ice (this can be made by freezing 2 quarts of water in a bowl overnight) and grate nutmeg over the top.

Bombay Government Punch (2)

2 cups of Demerara or Turbinado sugar
1 cup water plus 6 cups water
12 limes, juiced
2 750-ml bottles of pot-stilled rum or 1 bottle of rum and 1 750-ml bottle VSOP-grade cognac
Large block of ice
grated nutmeg to taste


2 tablespoons loose black or green tea (or 6 teabags), brewed and chilled in advance

1) In a large pot, make a simple syrup by stirring sugar in 1 cup water over a low flame until the sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes). Let this cool.

2) In a separate bowl, combine the lime juice with the simple syrup and stir. Add the rum or rum and Cognac.

3) Top off with 6 cups water or, for a more stimulating concoction, cold black or green tea.

4) Stir again and refrigerate. Half an hour before serving, add a large block of ice and grate nutmeg over the top.

Sounds like a great summer sipping drink to me…now if it would just warm up in Vancouver so we can enjoy some!