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The Pilgrim Cocktail which is actually punch

Amit Sood

Every once in a while you pick up an old but familiar book and encounter a recipe for a drink that has somehow passed you by. Iconic American Bartender Dale Degroff wrote his book “The Craft of the Cocktail” over a decade ago. It is a book that I have used a lot over the years and its release coincided with a positive shift towards today’s style of bartending and drink making.

I picked up the book to look for a simple yet different recipe for a rum punch and stumbled upon the Pilgrim Cocktail. Not strictly a cocktail by definition, despite the presence of the word in the name on the drink, the Pilgrim is a mixed drink that actually conforms to the oldest of all mixed drink families, which of course is punch. The punch as a drink dates back to the 1500’s and is derived from the Hindustani word “panch” meaning five. It was traditionally an East Indies recipe based on Arrack, (a Rice and Sugar cane distillate) spice, lemon juice, sugar and water or tea. The Punch Rhyme was created to illustrate the formula and it referred to the parts of the key ingredients: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak.  The English were thought to have introduced punch to America in the late 17th Century. Punch was synonymous with many social occasions and was always at the heart and soul of gatherings in yesteryear. Put simply, it was the drink of choice at many a party! The Pilgrim fulfils all the criteria for punch in the classic sense.  It has strong, weak, sweet, sour and spice in its formula.


The Pilgrim is a versatile drink that has both hot and cold incarnations. It is also served straight up and not long or over ice like many Caribbean punches. It is, however, perfect for sharing too. Just multiply each measurement of the recipe below by 6. This drink is dry and has beautiful balanced spicy undertones, thanks to the Pimento dram and the bitters. I decided to use two of the rums from the within the ACR Marque. I used Cockspur Fine Rum in place of Light Rum and Captain Bligh XO reserve in place of the dark rum that is listed in the book. It is particular good drink for those that do not favour sweet sugar laden drinks. If you feel it’s too dry add up to 10ml of sugar syrup or even add a little more Curacao. Be sure to shake well to get the drink cold and sufficiently diluted, but remember this is not a strong drink and therefore can easily be over diluted if you are not careful.


15ml Cockspur Fine Rum

15ml Captain Bligh XO

15ml Orange Curacao

7.5ml Pimento dram (Bitter Truth)

60ml freshly squeezed orange juice

10ml lime juice

1 dash Angostura bitters


Shake and fine strain into a coupette or Martini glass

No garnish listed but a warm cinnamon stick is great for aroma

To serve warm, gently heat in a sauce pan or steam using a coffee machine.


‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc’.
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