Old-fashioned Sherbet and Traditional, Five-element Punch


by Andrew “the Alchemist”

Sherbet is now mainly thought of in its frozen version, but unfrozen old-fashioned sherbet was once commonly used to make superior punches.  Contrary to what has been recently suggested, making sherbet the old-fashioned way by rubbing lump sugar against lemons is perfectly possible.  It is also culinarily preferable to muddling strips of lemon peel into granulated sugar – which fails to obtain deeply yellow sherbet sugar, and invariably adds bitterness from the white pith.  La Perruche™ and Comptoir du Sud™ are recommended brands of old-fashioned lump sugar that is solid enough for old-fashioned lemon-rubbing.

The first stage of making old-fashioned sherbet yields sherbet sugar, or oleo-saccharum.  Sherbet sugar contains the aromatic and sweet elements.

The second stage of making old-fashioned sherbet yields rump sherbet.  Rump sherbet contains the aromatic, sour and sweet elements.

The third stage yields fully-fledged, old-fashioned sherbet.  Old-fashioned sherbet contains the aromatic, sour, sweet and weak elements.

To make a traditional, five-element punch from old-fashioned sherbet, the strong element is added to it.

Following the instructions below will produce old-fashioned sherbet, the amount of which will be appropriate for making a traditional, five-element punch that will yield 12 servings of 6 fluid-ounces {180 milliliters} each, in the proportions of 2:1:4:3.  That is two parts of sour, one part of sweet, four parts of strong, and three parts of weak.  These proportions allow nicely for the additional amount of the weak element that will be incidentally added in the form of ice-meltage that will occur as the punch sits.  When the punch is served, each 6 fluid-ounce {180 milliliter} serving will contain almost exactly the traditional jigger {2 fluid-ounces | 60 milliliters} of liquor.

To make sherbet sugar in an appropriate quantity from which to eventually make a 12-serving batch of punch:

–          begin with room-temperature lemons

–          find the average juice yield per type and size of the lemons on hand

–          the average yield is usually between 1 fluid-ounce {30 milliliters} and 1-1/2 fluid-ounces {45 milliliters}

–          select enough of the lemons to yield 1-1/2 cups {12 fluid-ounces | 360 milliliters} of juice, with a little extra for good measure

–          soak the lemons in pure water that is not too cold for 15 minutes

–          use paper towels to dab the lemons dry, without rubbing or using much force

–          thoroughly wash, rinse and dry hands

–          rub old-fashioned lump sugar forcefully against the exterior {zest} of the lemons

–          do this over a large, glass measuring cup with a capacity of 2 cups or more

–          when the rubbed side of the sugar lump appears deeply yellow, turn it and continue to rub

–          rotate each lemon as needed to obtain the essential oil from the entire zest

–          as each lump of sugar becomes fully saturated, drop it into the measuring cup

–          as each lemon is rubbed of all of its available essential zest oil, reserve it and take up another intact lemon

–          stop when the amount of saturated sugar lumps reaches a generous 3/4 cup {6 fluid-ounces | 180 milliliters}

–          when taking the above measurement, don’t mind the dead space between lumps

–          the stopping point for rubbing sugar should roughly coincide with all the selected lemons having been rubbed

–          use a muddler to crush the saturated sugar lumps

–          add granulated sugar to bring the total sugar amount to 3/4 cup {6 fluid-ounces | 180 milliliters} and reserve

–          press the juice from the rubbed lemons until 1-1/2 cups {12 fluid-ounces | 360 milliliters} juice is obtained and reserve it

–          while pressing the juice, collect and reserve the pips {seeds} from the pressing tool, and the pressed lemon hulls

–          reserve the pressed juice

–          place the collected pips and reserved sugar preparation together in a mixing bowl

–          use the muddler to abrase the pips with the sugar, breaking the mucilage and allowing its flavor into the sugar

–          it is not desirable to break or crush the pips any more than occurs incidentally

At this point, the preparation becomes sherbet sugar, or oleo-saccharum.  If not going on, the pips should be carefully picked out.  If going on to make rump sherbet, it is not necessary to pick out the pips, as they will be strained out.

To continue and make rump sherbet in an appropriate quantity from which to eventually make a 12-serving batch of punch:

–          begin with the above preparation of sherbet sugar {the pips need not have been picked out}

–          add the 1-1/2 cups {12 fluid-ounces | 360 milliliters} of lemon juice that was reserved from above

–          used the muddler to continue crushing any lump sugar that may be left, and to free any impacted sherbet sugar from it

–          stir very well, until all of the sherbet sugar is dissolved into the lemon juice

–          pour through a fine strainer into another mixing bowl

–          If any appreciable amount of un-dissolved sugar is seen while pouring, stop pouring and stir more, before resuming straining

At this point, the preparation becomes rump sherbet.  The yield at this point should be almost exactly 2 cups.

If used within 24 hours, rump sherbet is excellent from which to make such variants of punch as swizzles, fixes, sours, fizzes and Collinses with – as long as not too much of the jigger is taken up by liqueur.  That would probably make the drink too sweet.  For making any of these individual punches, combine 1-1/3 fluid-ounces {40 milliliters} of the above preparation of rump sherbet to the traditional jigger {2 fluid-ounces | 60 milliliters} of total liquor.  This amount of rump sherbet contains almost exactly 1 fluid-ounce {30 milliliters} of lemon juice and 1 level-tablespoon {15 milliliters} of sugar.  This results in an individual drink with the proportions of 2 parts of sour, 1 part of sweet, and 4 parts of strong {and incidental method-related dilution} – which is traditional, and a good starting point – though it may be slightly too-sour for some tastes.

It can be noted here that proportions should always be considered with dry sugar amounts for familiarity with the amount of sweetness involved.  This is why I advocate the use of 1:1 sugar syrup when sugar syrup is to be used.  Made with equal parts (by volume) of sugar and water, converting from any amount of dry sugar can be easily accomplished by multiplying the dry sugar amount 1-1/2 times.  For example, 3/4 fluid-ounce {22.5 milliliters} of 1:1 sugar syrup contains almost exactly 1 level tablespoon {15 milliliters} of sugar {because 15 x 1.5 = 22.5}.

To continue and make old-fashioned sherbet in an appropriate quantity from which to eventually make a 12-serving batch of punch in the 2:1:4:3 proportions:

–          begin with the above preparation of rump sherbet

–          add 2-1/4 cups {18 fluid-ounces | 540 milliliters} of pure water

–          stir until evenly mixed

At this point, the preparation becomes old-fashioned sherbet.

To continue and make a 12-serving batch of punch in the 2:1:4:3 proportions:

–          begin with the above preparation of old-fashioned sherbet

–          pour the old-fashioned sherbet into an 8 quart punch bowl

–          add 3 cups {24 fluid-ounces | 720 milliliters} of liquor(s) {example: one 750 milliliter bottle minus 1 fluid-ounce – or just pour in the whole bottle}

–          stir until evenly mixed

–          taste the punch

–          if desired, add sweetness by stirring in more granulated sugar {if part of the 3 cups of liquor contains liqueur, this should not be necessary}

–          if desired, add more aromatic elements {examples: additive bitters, or spices tied into a cheesecloth bundle or placed into a commercially-available spice bag}

–          stir, cover and reserve for at least 2 hours to let the flavors marry

–          if a spice bundle or bag was added, remove it now

–          add as much of the largest-sized ice as will fit

–          garnish with garniture of choice {examples: citrus wheels or seasonal berries}

–          place the punch in an inviting location, with a ladle

–          in a nearby place, arrange clean punch cups of a size that will easily hold a 6 fluid-ounce portion of the punch


P.S.  Making sherbet sugar, rump sherbet and fully-fledged old-fashioned sherbet is an important part of the Elemental Mixology Fabrication Course {EMFC} that I teach in the Los Angeles area.  Check it out at http://www.elementalmixology.com for course dates when you can be taught in a hands-on manner to make your own old-fashioned sherbet by a mixologist with a formal culinary background {me!}.

– Andrew

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