Holiday Punch

Are you familiar with the origin of the fifth?

Sobieski The Livin’s Easy Summer Punch by Sobieski Vodka, on Flickr. That’s a fifth of Sobieski next to the bowl.

In the 19th century, vendors were only supposed to be selling liquor in measures–a cup (usually called a half-pint), a pint, a quart, or a gallon. Over time, smaller measures started to come to be known as the “commercial quart,” which was, in essence a scant quart.

Over time, the problem of selling under-volume bottles got worse. An explanation from a 1910 subcommittee report on an investigation into the problem:

Mr. Pearre. You observe this, do you not, that most liquor dealers have what appear to be quart bottles?
Mr. Haskell. Yes.
Mr. Pearre. On sale, or exhibited in their places, sometimes in windows and sometimes on their shelves, quart bottles and pint bottles. Have you ever tested any of their bottles.
Mr. Haskell. Yes; I think it is very seldom that a quart or a pint or a half-pint bottle is of full measure. There is a bottle that is sold, called a “fifth,” which generally the public is advised of, so that a purchaser understands that he is buying a short quart.
Mr. Johnson. That is, five bottles to the gallon?
Mr. Haskell. Five bottles to the gallon; yes, sir.
Mr. Pearre. Then, as I understand you, the general practice of the liquor dealers is to sell pints and quarts of short measure?
Mr. Haskell. I think so; yes, sir. I think the bottles in which the liquors are sold are generally of short measure.
Mr. Pearre. They do not contain 16 ounces in the case of a pint, or 32 ounces in the case of a quart?
Mr. Haskell. Very, very seldom.
Mr. Pearre. Do you know how much they are short?
Mr. Haskell. From 2 to 3 ounces; sometimes as much as 4 ounces.

Eventually, the colloquial “fifth” to refer to a commercial quart was formalized at an actual fifth of a gallon, 6.5 ounces less than a quart, at about 757 ml. About the only result of Carter’s push for the metric system was that, in 1979, the size was standardized at 750 ml. (Thanks heaps, Jimmy. Oh but hey, good job with Camp David, you totally solved that Mideast problem.)

From the box of F.J. from Sun City, Arizona. Some cards suggest a family history in Missouri and Kansas.

Holiday Punch

1 fifth bourbon
1 (6 oz.) can frozen lemonade
1 (6 oz.) can frozen orange juice
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
1 quart sparkling water
1 king size bottle of 7-Up

1 huge chunk of decorated ice.

Makes 20 cups.

In punch bowl mix: lemon, orange, and cherry juice.

Add: bourbon, sparkling water, and 7-Up at room temperature (not chilled) and float ice.

To decorate ice, place orange slices and cherries in geometrical design in bottom of 1/2 gal. round ice cream plastic container. Barely cover with water and freeze. Fill with water and freeze again.

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