Chatham Artillery Punch
With its unofficial libation, the Chatham Artillery Punch, the City of Savannah stakes its claim as one of the most formidable cities for drinking in the United States. Nicknamed the “Vanquisher of Men,” this cocktail packs military strength behind a deceptively bubbly and refreshing façade.
There are many wildly different recipes for Chatham Artillery Punch. Ours is the oldest known recipe: equal parts rum, brandy, bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar, shaken together and topped with champagne. Around town, one can find offerings that include all kinds of fruit juices, Catawba wine, or teas. Those establishments aren’t wrong; their drinks are just from later in history. As American tastes changed and the Temperance Movement gained power, Americans started cutting the alcohol with ingredients of less… firepower.
Ours is the oldest known recipe: equal parts rum, brandy, bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar, shaken together and topped with champagne.
As a treasured slice of Savannah’s culture, Chatham Artillery Punch’s origin is subject to all kinds of rumor. We can’t really know the original recipe or who came up with it. Some claim President George Washington was among its first victims during his 1792 visit to the city. The most likely story started a few decades later.
In the 1850s, a military regiment called the Republican Blues returned from training in Macon and were welcomed back by Sergeant A.B. Luce and the Chatham Artillery, one of the oldest military units in American history. Luce used horse buckets to mix up a punch of “delirious deliciousness” that defeated every soldier present that night.
During a convention of Southern journalists in 1870, Chatham Artillery Punch once again proved victorious and word spread all over the country of Savannah’s “mortal enemy of despair.” In 1900, Spanish-American War hero, George Dewey, was no match for the version of the punch he was served. Instead of bringing shame upon such a decorated military man, the cause of his resulting illness was reported as indigestion from the acidity of the drink reacting with a bad salad.
For well over a century since Luce’s mixture, variations on the recipe have continued. The version printed in the New York Sun in 1939 listed Catawba wine, rum, brandy, Benedictine, gin, rye, and a whole bunch of sugar as the ingredients. To this day, Savannahians throw whatever liquor, wines, teas, and juices into a bowl for occasions like St. Patrick’s Day and dub their concoction with the honored name of Chatham Artillery Punch.
It’s a cocktail central to Savannah’s cultural identity. Don’t leave the Hostess City behind without seeing how you match up to its military might.