Is it worse to be a fish out of water, or a fisherman out of cocktails?
In the eternal libraries of written words, the dedicated scribes through time have preserved many great thoughts about people and fish.
A clever writer at The Galveston Daily News in June 1881 is credited with being the first to describe a self-important person in a small community as a “big fish in a small pond.”
The poets console someone whose relationship has gone bad by eloquently stating there is more than one fish in the sea.
Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
There’s also the oft-repeated line about drinking like a fish. It’s never been a compliment, considering that someone who drinks like a fish seems to be regularly over-served.
It’s a saying that first appeared in print way back in 1640 in a play by Englishman John Fletcher called “The Night Walker” or “The Little Thief” and updated by his protégé, James Shirley. In that play appears the line: “Give me the bottle, I can drink like a fish now, like an elephant.”
Elephants are known for not forgetting, an obvious conflict to heavy drinking. Drinking like an elephant never quite gained the cachet of drinking like a fish.
For the record, if one does drink like a fish, one is either dehydrated or drinks moderate amounts of saltwater. Freshwater fish actually don’t drink water but absorb it, and saltwater fish do drink, but only as a means of filtration.
The imbibing reputation that fish are unfairly stuck with, however, could be more fairly attributed to the men and women who spend endless hours trying to catch them. Fishermen are known to take to cocktails like fish to water, so to speak, thus the saying might be more correct if it said: “Drink and like to fish.”
Famed sports journalist Jimmy Cannon (1909-1973) summed it all up by once writing, “Fishing, with me, has always been an excuse to drink in the daytime.”
There’s nothing to criticize in that. There are cocktails made to enjoy with a meal, preferably in the evening, of fresh-caught fish. To paraphrase from more great literature — this by Dr. Seuss — catch one fish or two fish; add Red Fish (a cocktail made with dark rum, coconut rum, mango rum, orange, cranberry and pineapple juice), and Blue Fish (one made with raspberry vodka, citrus vodka, blue Curacao, sour and a splash of 7-Up).
Fresh fish on the grill, in the pan or baking in the oven call out for some of the cocktail world’s most popular tropical drinks. Just consider the often used enhancer to any fish is lemon juice. Glance through any cookbook and count the number of recipes that combine pineapple, limes and tart fruits in sauces or on the grill.
The citrus and fruit bring out the best in both fish and liquor. All versions of fruity daiquiris, citrusy mojitos, sour margaritas and smooth piña coladas are in the same school with tastes that enhance fish.
Other classic cocktails that should never miss a catch are ones like Sea Breeze, a drink combining vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice; Salty Dog, made with vodka, grapefruit and a salted rim; or Cape Cod, a simple mixture of vodka and cranberry juice.
Of course, if the party, or the gathering of fishermen, is larger than a quartet, enjoy life in a fishbowl.
Fishbowl cocktails are varied and limitless. What they have in common is that they’re considered punch and generally are served from large pitchers or bowls. These bowls have included actual gold fish bowls.
The wonderful thing about punches is they are easy to make and generally call for the very drink ingredients that go so well with fish, and these can be adjusted as needed. Punches can be made days in advance long before the fish are caught. On the big day, they can be served around a block of ice. Champagne, sparkling wine or carbonated beverages can be added just before serving to give the punch added flair.
An additional bonus is they can be made in great quantities. After all, a fish out of water is a terrible thing, but fishermen out of cocktails is a tragedy.
Probably the most famous fishbowl cocktail is also the oldest known in the United States — the Fish House Punch. It was first brought to life in 1732 at an all-male fishing club in Philadelphia called the State in Schuylkill. It was familiarly known as the Fish House.
Made with rum, cognac and peach brandy diluted with cold black tea, Fish House Punch was served in an enormous bowl that was actually used as a baptismal font when needed. It was described by one visiting government official in 1744 as “a bowl of fine lemon punch big enough to have swimmed half a dozen of young Geese.”
George Washington, after becoming the first president of the United States, was said to have indulged in the punch multiple times at one sitting. It was noted he failed to make any entry in his diary for three days.
The recipe is still popular and easily found both online and in most cocktail recipe books. After all, it was not only favored by the father of our country, it had the power to keep a president quiet for at least three days.
Locally, there is no shortage of fish, people who fish or punches to keep them afloat.
At Fish Tales, 2502 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston, the inventive folks behind the bar have a full menu of fish-friendly tropical drinks, including a popular Sunset Punch. While this might sound like the last move in a losing fight, it’s actually a superb punch of spice rum enhanced with banana liqueur and a variety of fruit juices.
RumShack, 3204 Seawall Blvd., in Galveston, is the destination spot for a fish bowl punch that would make the State in Schuylkill and George Washington proud. Called, innocently enough, Rum Punch, this delicious mixture could explain why some fish fly. It contains various amounts of Sugar Island Coconut Rum, Myers and Bacardi 151 mixed with fruit juices and Bols Crème de Almond.
So, yes, the written pages of history do show the relationship between man and fish is long and strong and has bonds that would seem eternal. Not the least of those is that both enjoy life in the drink.
Recipe created by RumShack, part of Island Famous Inc.
1 ounce Sugar Island
1 ounce Myers Dark Rum
½ ounce Bols Crème de Almond
1 ounce Bacardi 151 rum
Start with a 20-ounce glass and pour in the coconut rum, the Meyers rum and the crème de almond. Fill with ice. Fill the glass with equal parts orange juice and pineapple juice. Using a cocktail shaker, turn the mixture between the glass and the shaker three times.
With the mixture in the glass, float the Bacardi 151 on top.