To accompany our exhibition FOUND, we asked the London Gin Club to create a new gin cocktail, inspired by the eighteenth-century history of the Foundling Hospital.
Here’s the story behind their creation, the Rocketts Milk Punch, a contemporary take on a recipe first published in 1711, with gin kindly supplied by 58 Distillery.
“Having a keen interest in London history we were thrilled to be asked to create a gin cocktail for the Foundling Museum, a rich prospect with many avenues to explore not least the Foundling Hospital’s association with William Hogarth. In thinking of gin and Hogarth, it is natural to turn to his 1751 engraving Gin Lane, the infamous companion piece to Beer Street, which depicts the wicked and corrupting influence of eighteenth-century rot-gut gin on the working poor. However, before allowing a negative gloom to settle on proceedings, the anti-gin propaganda of the eighteenth century has to be put in context. It was primarily driven by xenophobia (being of Dutch origin) and a result of the socioeconomic upheaval created by the new disposable income of the working poor, rather than a concern for the public health of the city’s residents.
A richer and more enticing avenue that we pursued is Hogarth’s love of punch, the seventeenth-century father of the cocktail. Punch drinking is depicted in many of Hogarth’s works and is central to Midnight Modern Conversation where the aftermath of a gentleman’s punch party is laid bare for all to see. We know from Hogarth’s Frolic: The Five Day’s Peregrination Around the Isle of Sheppey of William Hogarth and His Fellow Pilgrims that he himself was a fan of punch and posessed a handsome china punchbowl (now on display in the Museum’s Picture Gallery).We also know from this slim volume that Hogarth himself was not averse to a drop of gin!
So gin punch it is, however an intriguing reference to ‘Milk Punch’ led us further on in our research and free-association thinking. Punch, a drink combining citrus, sugar, spirit, water and spices, was available in England from around the 1650s but reached its apogee in the mid-eighteenth century. The art of a good punch was the balance of sour to sweet and strong to weak. However, regardless of the maker’s skill, punch tended to be quite citric, and if consumed in volume over a period of time could upset the stomach. The solution to this thorny problem, it turns out, was Milk Punch. Surprisingly, to modern ears, being quite delicious, Milk Punch utilises whey as the ‘weak’ component which softens the citrus and imparts a subtle velvety mouthfeel.
There was then the question of where to look for a recipe. Punch is a diverse drink with endless variations. The revered names of cocktail history, Jerry Thomas and Harry Craddock, published recipes for Milk Punch, but we wanted to create something closer to the taste of the eighteenth-century and so we turned to an english housewife, Mary Rockett, whose recipe for Milk Punch was published in 1711. By giving the recipe some tweaks to accommodate gin and a modern palette, we created Rocketts Milk Punch. We hope you enjoy the results!”