The Greatest Cocktail Stories Ever Told, Part 4: The Largest Cocktail Ever Made

We at Downtime Cocktails do not condone drinking to excess, but we do love a good drinking story—especially one that involves the creation of cocktails on an epic scale.

One of our favorite cocktail-tales takes place in 1694 in Cadiz, Spain. It was there that British Admiral and Senior Naval Lord Edward Russell hosted a party and oversaw the creation of the largest cocktail ever made.

It seems that Admiral Russell was a bit peeved at the time, as he was the first naval commander in the British fleet who was not allowed to sail his squadron home for the holidays in late autumn. In a fit of pique, Russell decided to throw an enormous bash at an estate in Spain, paid for on the navy's dime. The party featured 150 different dishes and a huge outdoor garden fountain that was filled with alcohol and served to guests as a punch. How big was this punch cocktail? Well, a boy in a rowboat paddled around the fountain stirring the cocktail as he oared! And bartenders paddled around in canoes, filling up cups for guests. (Evidently the bartenders had to work in 15-minute shifts to avoid being overcome by alcohol fumes and falling overboard.)
The fountain concoction was made up of 250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of Malaga wine, 1,400 pounds of sugar, 2,500 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice, and 5 pounds of nutmeg.
With more than 400 gallons to drink, Russell's party continued nonstop for a full eight days, pausing only briefly during rainstorms to erect a silk canopy over the punch to keep it from getting watered down.
It's not surprising that—with a fountain full of alcohol and no limits on consumption by guests—the party eventually devolved into drunken chaos. At some point, one of the guests decided it would be fun to jump into the fountain, which triggered a mad dash by other guests. As one witness recalled, “in went the mob, with their shoes and stockings and all on, and they wanted to turn the boat with the boy over so he might have been drowned in punch.”

After eight days, the party finally ended. It was only because the fountain had been drunk completely dry.
This holiday season, if you're inspired to celebrate like an old British Naval Commander, here's the recipe (downsized!) for Admiral Russell's punch. If you have a fountain or a swimming pool you want to fill, sorry—you'll have to do the math yourself.

Admiral Russell Punch

  • Ingredients
    • 2.5 Cups Demerara Sugar
    • 1 Cup Boiling Water
    • 18 oz. Strained Lemon Juice
    • 4 oz. Strained Lime Juice
    • 2 Bottles Remy Martin Cognac
    • 18 oz. Sherry or Madeira
    • 1.5 Quarts Cold Water
  •  Directions
    • Pour the sugar in a punch bowl and add boiling water. Stir to dissolve.
    • Mix in the lemon and lime juices and continue to stir more if needed to dissolve all the sugar.
    • Add the spirits and stir again.
    • Add the cold water and grate nutmeg over the top.
    • Garnish with lemon and lime slices.

Makes: 18 Cups