This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
There is a pure, wholesome Cognac which is immensely valuable for medicinal purposes, being made from the grapes of La Folle, or St. Pierre, such as are carefully cultivated, and guarded, in the vineyards of Charente. These grapes are juicy, large, and very sweet, as well as rich in flavour. The wine expressed therefrom is stored in oaken casks for four years, at the end of which time it is rich in colour, and very astringent in quality, these being the virtues which confer its value as a medicine. In a good year six or seven bottles of wine should yield one bottle of Brandy. After from twenty to forty years Brandy comes to contain a considerable proportion of volatile ethers, and aldehydes, to which some of the most valuable properties of this Cordial spirit are to be attributed. British Brandy is distilled in England from malt liquors, and has the flavour, and colour, of French Brandy imparted to it artificially.
For Orange Brandy, which is an excellent tonic restorative, "to one gallon of best pale Brandy put one dozen Seville oranges; tear these oranges into very thin segments, and squeeze out the juice; next add two pounds of powdered loaf sugar, and stir until dissolved; let it stand a day or two, then shake up well, and leave it for a few months; afterwards bottle it".
Punch is an alcoholic drink in which lemon-juice is introduced, with a flavouring of the peel, as added to either of the principal distilled spirits, water, and sugar. Without doubt the most characteristic Punch is made with Rum, at least in part. It may be drunk hot or cold. As an immediate restorative, and in winter, hot Punch is best. It should never be stronger than the presence of alcohol to 20 per cent will make it; this is about the average strength of Sherry, or Port wine. The Punch will be more wholesome if containing less spirit (down to 10 per cent of alcohol). If milk be added, this will give to the Punch a body which develops, and accentuates its taste. The beverage always remains a little turbid, except when kept a long time; very little precipitation of curd (casein) takes place.
"Hot Punch" (the Bagman's Story, in Pickwick) "is a pleasant thing, gentlemen, an extremely pleasant thing under any circumstances, but in the snug old parlour, before the roaring fire, on a cold winter's night, with the wind blowing outside till every timber in the old house creaked again, Tom Smart found it perfectly delightful. He ordered another tumblerful, and then another; I am not quite certain whether he did not order another again after that".
Also, "when Mr. Pickwick at the skating party fell through the broken ice, and was extricated with much splashing, and cracking, and struggling, he ran off at the top of his speed, muffled in shawls, until he reached Manor Farm, then paused not an instant until he was snug in bed. A bowl of Punch was carried up promptly after some dinner, and a grand carouse was held in honour of his safety; a second, and a third bowl were ordered in, and when Mr. Pickwick awoke next morning there was not a symptom of rheumatism about him; which proves, as Mr. Bob Sawyer justly observed, there is nothing like hot Punch in such cases; and that if ever hot Punch did fail to act as a preventive, it was merely because the patient fell into the vulgar error of not taking enough of it." Furthermore, after "the leg-of-mutton swarry" at Bath, when Sam Weller played the host to the departing guests, "Mr. Tuckle, the coachman in red, laid aside his cocked hat, and stick, which he had just taken up, and said he would have one glass for goodfellowship's sake; and, as the gentleman in blue went home the same way, he was prevailed upon to stop, too.
When the Punch was about half gone, Sam ordered in some oysters from the greengrocer's shop; and the effect of both was so extremely exhilarating that Mr. Tuckle, dressed out with the cocked hat, and stick, danced the frog hornpipe among the shells on the table, while the gentleman in blue played an accompaniment upon an ingenious musical instrument formed of a hair-comb and a curl paper".
Rum is a spirit usually produced by the distillation of fermented molasses, as obtained in the manufacture of raw sugar, but the best varieties are procured by direct fermentation of sugar-cane juice. "Rum," said Oliver Wendell Holmes, "I take to be the name which unwashed moralists apply alike to the product distilled from molasses, and the noblest juices of the vineyard. Burgundy in all its sunset glow is Rum! Champagne, the foaming wine of Eastern Prance, is Rum!" As a spirit it owes its dark colour to burnt sugar. A considerable quantity of the Rum sold in this country is made from "silent spirit,"being flavoured chemically with "ethyl-butyrate".
The most esteemed Rum comes from the West Indies, as Jamaica Rum, Antigua, Grenada, or Santa Crux Rum. Our forefathers a generation ago were fond of Rum Shrub (from Shariba, drink), which was concocted by boiling fresh currant juice for about ten minutes with an equal weight of sugar, and adding a little Rum. Thackeray wrote (Phillip's Adventures): "There never was any liquor so good as Rum Shrub, never! and the sausages had a flavour of Elysium." "Oh! my young friend,"said the red-nosed Mr. Stiggins, the shepherd, to Sam Weller (in Pickwick), "all taps is vanities: if there is any one of them less odious than another it is the liquor called Rum, - warm, my dear young friend, with three lumps of sugar to the tumbler." Rum is remarkable for its freedom from fusel oil, or amylic alcohol.
Again, a Sherry Cobbler (originally Cobbler's Punch) as a summer drink, to be sucked through a straw, is reviving, and wholesome in hot weather. It is made by mixing up together in a large glass pounded ice, wine, and sugar, with slices of orange, or pineapple.
Ratafia, deriving its name from the Malay "Tafia," a liqueur prepared from cane sugar syrup, is a sweet cordial flavoured with fruits, generally those yielding the essences of black currants, bitter almonds, or peach and cherry kernels. Ashton in his Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, telling of a Lady at the Play, says: "It would make a man smile to behold her Figure in a front Box, where her twinkling eyes, by her afternoon Drams of Ratifee, and cold tea, sparkle more than her pendants".