Whenever importer Eric Seed hits town, you can pretty much bet he has something new and great up his sleeve. Recently, it was the first commercially sold Swedish Punsch to see these shores in half a century. Here's the item I wrote about it for the Times:
How About a Nice Swedish Punsch?
By Robert Simonson
The passion for resurrecting pre-Prohibition cocktails has helped fetch out of history’s dustbin several forgotten elixirs, including Crème Yvette, allspice dram, orange bitters and, most famously, absinthe. The latest one to be rehabilitated is Swedish punsch. Beginning this summer, the sweet liqueur will return to liquor stores courtesy of Eric Seed, the owner of Haus Alpenz, a Minnesota-based importing company that specializes in unique and arcane liquors.
Mr. Seed was the logical candidate for the job. The base spirit of Swedish punsch is Batavia arrack, the southeastern Asian liquor derived from sugar cane and red rice. This, too, was lost to Americans, until Mr. Seed began importing it a few years ago.
“We knew Swedish punsch would eventually come back as long as Batavia Arrack existed,” said Ted Haigh, a noted cocktail historian. (Mr. Haigh likes Swedish punsch so much his nickname is “Dr. Cocktail,” the name of the best known punsch concoction.)
The liqueur — which also contains rum, sugar and spices — dates from Sweden’s exploring days. “The tradition goes back to the Swedish East India Company,” Mr. Seed said. “To mollify the sailors on board the ships, they let them dive into the Batavia arrack that they brought back from the East Indies. They would mix that with sugar and maybe a touch of the spice, and that grog they called their punch.”
Sometime in the 19th century, Swedish punsch was bottled. “Swedish tradition is to warm it up and enjoy it with pea soup,” told Mr. Seed. “It was a Thursday night tradition.”
By the turn of the 20th century, the liqueur had gained a foothold in America as a cocktail ingredient. But when Prohibition hit, momentum slowed. Punsch went out of fashion and then disappeared altogether.
Mr. Seed teamed with the Swedish-born, America-dwelling oenologist Henrik Facile to come up with a new Swedish punsch recipe. The new product has been labeled Kronan. Unlike many other punsch brands, it will actually be made by Swedes in Sweden — just out Stockholm. Kronan will be sold in both Sweden and America for $30.
“It’s traditional applications are for very simple drinks,” Mr. Seed said. “The Swedes have it straight or straight warmed up.”
Maybe Americans can start a new tradition of punsch and pea soup Thursdays.