St. Cecelia Society Punch

Happy new year, everyone! I began 2011 by hosting a New Year’s Eve party for 15 guests, and what better occasion to try out one of Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s punch recipes?

This was my first attempt at one of Baker’s punches. I decided to start things off with the St. Cecelia Society Punch (it should be “Cecilia,” but loyal Bakerite that I am, I’ll stick with his misspelling). According to the Internet—which has a million recipes for this drink—this punch was the traditional beverage of the exclusive St. Cecilia Society, founded in Charleston in the 18th century. Its meetings were so exclusive, according to Baker, “that when the welkin rang in ancient Hibernian Hall, not one single newspaper ever mentioned a bit of what took place.” Possibly this is because nobody knew what a “welkin” was.

This was also my first opportunity to use my recently acquired vintage punch bowl, which I found on eBay after diligent searching. Although I haven’t verified this scientifically, I feel confident saying that drinks just taste better when they’re served from a punch bowl.

The recipe for this punch is straightforward, although it requires some advance preparation. It makes a ludicrous quantity as written, but you can easily make a half-batch, as I did.

  • 750 ml cognac (Hennessy VS)
  • 1 ripe pineapple, sliced fine and cored
  • 6 lemons or 10 limes, sliced thin (lemons)
  • 750 ml peach or apricot brandy (Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot)
  • 2 cups Jamaican rum (Appleton Estate V/X)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 cups green tea
  • 5 bottles dry champagne (Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs)
  • 64 fl oz club soda
  1. Marinate the lemon and pineapple with brandy overnight, tightly covered.
  2. “At noon of the evening when we plan to serve it,” add rum, tea, sugar, and peach or apricot brandy. Mix well.
  3. Just before serving, add champagne, then club soda.

I used a large block of ice to keep the punch chilled, with lemon and lime slices frozen in. This is easy to make—just partially fill a bowl with water, then add the fruit of your choice and arrange it in a decorative pattern.

This punch was a tremendous hit with my guests, who agreed that it had a delicious, complex flavor that was almost impossible to tease apart into its constituent ingredients. The punch was such a hit, in fact, that I had to whip up a second, impromptu punch during the party! I’ll save that one for another post. For now, if you’re not willing to commit to drinking a giant bowl of this punch, you can approximate it with this single-serving recipe:

  • 1 oz green tea
  • 3/4 oz apricot brandy
  • 3/4 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz Jamaican rum
  • 1/4 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 4 1/2 tsp superfine sugar
  • 4 oz champagne
  • 2 oz club soda

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lemon slices in the sugar. Add all remaining ingredients except champagne and club soda; shake with ice, then strain into a goblet. Add champagne and club soda.

Less authentic, but still completely delicious. And you won’t need 15 other people to help you finish it.

St. Cecelia Society Punch: ★★★★★ 

One Response to “St. Cecelia Society Punch”

  1. Lisa says:

    This punch is a favorite at our house; this recipe is very close to the one given to me by a friend whose family was from Charleston, and were reported to be members of the St. Cecicelia Society.
    Marinate the fruit at least overnight for the best flavor, and use the best booze you can afford…this is not a recipe to skimp on with house brands…the secret in its taste is to not taste like alcohol at all…enjoy!

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