Flaming Christmas Punch – A Christmas Carol, 1843

Charles Dickens' Punch

Christmas Punch

“Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, 1843 


The original recipe, unaltered, delivers quite a hefty alcoholic blow. I had expected much more of the alcohol to burn off, since 3-4 minutes seems like a good amount of time, but it was very much still present. The lemon is also prominent, between the zest and the juice, and compliments the rum/brandy mixture nicely.

In the end, though, to stretch out the recipe for a party, and to help ease the taste of serious booze, I added some cinnamon sticks and apple cider to the mix. I imagine that a variety of fruit juices would work equally well, and I enjoyed this recipe enough to try some variations in the future!

Recipe for Flaming Christmas Punch

Prep Time: ~25 minutes

Makes about 6-8 servings

This recipe is from a letter penned by Charles Dickens: “Peel into a very strong common basin the rinds of three lemons, cut very thin, and with as little as possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit, attached. Add a double-handfull [sic] of lump sugar (good measure), a pint of good old rum, and a large wine-glass full of brandy — if it not be a large claret-glass, say two. Set this on fire, by filling a warm silver spoon with the spirit, lighting the contents at a wax taper, and pouring them gently in. [L]et it burn for three or four minutes at least, stirring it from time to Time. Then extinguish it by covering the basin with a tray, which will immediately put out the flame. Then squeeze in the juice of the three lemons, and add a quart of boiling water. Stir the whole well, cover it up for five minutes, and stir again. At this crisis (having skimmed off the lemon pips with a spoon) you may taste. If not sweet enough, add sugar to your liking, but observe that it will be a little sweeter presently. Pour the whole into a jug, tie a leather or coarse cloth over the top, so as to exclude the air completely, and stand it in a hot oven ten minutes, or on a hot stove one quarter of an hour.  Keep it until it comes to table in a warm place near the fire, but not too hot. If it be intended to stand three or four hours, take half the lemon-peel out, or it will acquire a bitter taste.  The same punch allowed to cool by degrees, and then iced, is delicious. It requires less sugar when made for this purpose. If you wish to produce it bright, strain it into bottles through silk. These proportions and directions will, of course, apply to any quantity.”


  • 3 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups rum
  • 1 cup brandy
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 4 cups boiling water

Optional additional ingredients:

  • 1-2 cups apple cider or other juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Using a veggie peeler, take strips of peel off the lemons, leaving off as much of the bitter white pith as possible.

Add the peels, sugar, rum, and brandy to a saucepot and warm over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Using a long match or taper, carefully lower a flame to just above the surface of the liquid; it should catch and burn with a lovely blue flame. Allow this to burn for 3-4 minutes, then quickly and carefully place a lid on the pot to extinguish the flame.

Remove the lid and add the lemon juice and boiling water. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes, then taste. Add more sugar if it’s to your liking, or additional ingredients until it is delicious by your standards.

Strain out any floating bits of lemon or spice, and keep warm until serving.

 Flaming Punch


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