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Why You Should Drink Rum Punch (And Not Mulled Wine)

December 2018Words by Mr Richard Godwin

The Oxford Punch by the Punch Room at the London Edition. Photograph courtesy of the Punch Room

Anyone who has attempted to eat his sister’s Body Shop products will tell you that some things smell a lot better than they taste. Peppermint foot lotion. Freshly cut grass. Petrol. And mulled wine. Yes, I’m afraid, we must place mulled wine, that ubiquitous lubricator of festive gatherings, in this company.

How tempted you are when your host approaches you, wreathed in wine fumes, sugar, cinnamon and orange. And how regrettable that first sip invariably is: over-sweet, over-spiced, made with £2.99 Château du Migraine and always accompanied by an instant hangover.

It is particularly disappointing that mulled wine is so popular in Britain given that it is a) continental in origin and b) we have hundreds and hundreds of superior alternatives expressly designed to compensate for our rain-lashed climate. Our 18th-century forbears couldn’t get enough purls (wormwood ales), dog’s noses (porter and stout), bishops (wine, oranges and sugar) and flips (rum, ale, eggs and sugar). But best of all is a good strong rum punch, which predates the oldest cocktail by a couple of centuries at least. It’s what Mary Poppins drinks. It also occasioned some of Mr Charles Dickens’ loveliest winter scenes. (From The Pickwick Papers: “Hot punch is a pleasant thing, gentlemen – an extremely pleasant thing under any circumstances – but in that snug old parlour, before the roaring fire, with the wind blowing outside till every timber in the old house creaked again, Tom Smart found it perfectly delightful”). And it tastes just as good as it smells.