Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Punch Bowl

Hi Everyone, and welcome to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our Artifact Corner series. Today we will be looking at this exquisite punch bowl recovered from the bottom of Lake Champlain. This piece is obviously not completely intact, but a majority of the bowl has been recovered. This bowl is a piece of yellow ware, which is a vessel with a yellow to buff colored body, that is then glazed with lead or alkaline which gives the piece its yellow appearance. The size of this vessel helped us to determine its use as a punch bowl. Let’s learn a bit more about punch bowls, and punch in the early 19th Century.

Punch as a drink dates back to the early 17th Century. In 1638 a German adventurer named Johan Mandelslo wrote punch is a “kind of drink consisting of aqua vitae, rose-water, juice of citrons and sugar.” While recipes may vary most punch recipes are composed of a spirit or alcohol, citrus, water, sugar and spices. Punch drinking became insanely popular in the 18th Century, and spread far and wide throughout Europe and the newly former United States. Punch parties were very fashionable, and special vessels or punch bowls were made. Sometimes these bowls were made to commemorate important events, to celebrate sporting matches, or even to memorialize the passing of a friend. In social settings, a large punch bowl would be filled to the brim, and you would ladle out some punch into a smaller glass. If you were traveling, you might just make a large batch of punch in a bowl, and pass the bowl around, with everyone taking a sip from the bowl itself.

Now that we know a bit more about the history of punch, let’s learn a traditional punch recipe. This punch recipe is from Martha Washington’s own collection of receipts, and variations of it were very popular in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. What you will need to make this punch are the following ingredients:

  • 1 Pot of hot black tea
  • 1 Cup of raw sugar
  • 2 Cups of water
  • 1 Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 Dash of cinnamon
  • 12 Cloves
  • 2 to 3 Lemons
  • 1 to 2 Oranges
  • 12 oz of Dark Spiced Rum

To prepare the recipe, combine the water, sugar and spices over a medium to high heat to make a simple syrup. Allow the syrup to cool for about 15 minutes before adding it to the punch bowl. If you add it while it’s still boiling, you might crack your serving vessel. While your syrup is cooling, juice your citrus fruit, and remove any seeds. Now, add your syrup, citrus juice, tea, and of course rum to your punch bowl with some ice. Mix it all together, serve and enjoy!

This punch bowl is in good condition given its history, after all, it survived a naval battle! We are so grateful to the Marine Research Institute at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for all of their help in making this series possible. This punch bowl is one of hundreds of artifacts in their collections from the Battle of Plattsburgh. If you would like to learn more about them, go to their website, We hope you enjoy this Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration series, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,