Punch Room, the reservations-only bar inside The London Edition hotel, provides exactly the type of experience you might expect from an Ian Schrager property. After all, the hotelier pioneered the concept of boutique lodgings—where aesthetics, design, and luxury amenities are just as important as impeccable service—when he opened the hotel Morgans New York in 1984.
With the tucked-away, oak-paneled Punch Room, Schrager aimed to emulate the style of the manor house libraries and private clubs of nineteenth-century London. For Davide Segat, bar manager at the hotel, the task of conceptualizing the cocktail menu led him straight to punch, ith good reason. "We knew Edition would be opening [locations] all over the world," he explains, "so we wanted this bar to reflect the British element of the London Edition—and punch is a quintessentially British drink."
While many people may only know punch as a holiday party staple—or, worse yet, as the blindly spiked swill of their college days—punch is actually considered the original cocktail, one with a British pedigree dating back to the early 19th century. While its exact origins remain a point of contention, everyone can agree that British sailors of the East India Company were drinking versions of punch as an alternative to beer, which would quickly spoil at sea.
The drink eventually grew in popularity, spread across the U.K., and became a mainstay for British society. While this brand of punch—flowing out of silver-clad ladles and served from grandiose bowls—was more refined than the scrappy, maritime original, it stemmed from the same formula: spirits mixed with sugar, citrus, tea or water, and spices.
At Punch Room, the 10 takes of the punch bowl on offer are split thematically down the middle: historical and modern. "The Arrack Punch," playfully described as "the most OG of the punches" on the menu, is made from arrack (liquor distilled from the sap of palm trees), lemon juice, chai tea, and honey essence—an upgrade of the original version British sailors would concoct using ingredients found on their travels. As evidenced by recipes such as this one, historical cocktail books served as a major source of inspiration for Segat while he was developing the menu.
"We love the concept of the five ingredients," says Segat. "It's the start of a good punch, but you can see in so many old books that very few people stuck with that rule. We always try to build punch following these rules, but nothing is written in stone, so we keep a very open mind." That would explain the more obviously modern punches on the menu, such as "Closer to God," made with Chichicapa mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Vermentino, lime juice, lemon sherbet, and chamomile soda.
Since opening its doors, Punch Room's exclusive vibe and acclaimed punch bowls have galvanized everyone from London locals to visiting celebrities to try and nab a reservation. London's fashion set has especially embraced Punch Room, often holding post-fashion show court over miniature cauldrons of punch near a roaring fire; The London Edition Instagram feed finds Susie Lau, the British fashion blogger behind Style Bubble, happily sipping her punch from a floral tea cup.
Good news for everyone outside of London: Punch Room has decided to spread the wealth and embark on a bar tour across the globe. Most recently, they paid a visit to Candelaria—a tequila-focused cocktail bar in Paris—where they served up punch bowls inspired by the venue. On February 28 and 29, they're off to Miami to pop into The Miami Edition and Sweet Liberty before heading to Asia for Singapore Cocktail Week; stops in New York, Chicago, and Berlin are planned for later in the year. Time to get familiar.
See editionhotels.com/london for more.