Krulak's punch still strong after 60 years
By Cpl. Shawn M. Toussaint
| | December 19, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
With precise accuracy, retired Lt. Gen. Victor H. Krulak, prepared historic Fish House Punch Monday at the Bay View Restaurant.
"Its just right," said Krulak after sipping his concoction and clearing his throat with a hearty cough.
Krulak has been preparing this pre-revolutionary punch annually since 1943 and takes pride in personally mixing it for his guests, according to retired 1st Sgt. Ben Paria, long-time personal friend of Krulak.
"He makes it every year to celebrate his birthday with his friends and family," said Paria. This occasion marked the celebration of Krulak's 91st birthday which falls Jan. 6.
Krulak's Fish House Punch celebration is renown for combining American and Marine Corps traditions and sharing them with local San Diegans, according to Bill Fox, San Diego Zoo board member.
"I find it charming," said Fox about Krulak's initiative to carry on the tradition of his Fish House Punch celebration. "It seems like I've been coming here since I was born. It's a slice of life.
I have enjoyed meeting new friends and reuniting with old friends throughout the years."
Though Krulak's own celebration is somewhat of a legend in its own right, the lore of Fish House Punch is another story.
The story begins in pre-revolutionary Philadelphia.
As a result of early trading with Caribbean countries, colonists along the fishing ports massed great quantities of rum and citrus fruits.
These fish houses, as they were called, kept punch bowls of Fish House Punch in their outer foyers to entertain guests as they waited to be seated.
The combination of rum, brandy, lemon juice, water and sugar gained a reputation for packing a punch among early colonists, including Continental Marines.
Toasting a small amount of rum, grog, or Fish House Punch at traditional Marine celebrations has always been apart of Marine Corps tradition.
"It is a Continental Marine tradition," said Brig. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Western Recruiting Region. "It's a chance for Marines to break down barriers, relax and share in tradition. It's camaraderie."
Krulak's celebration is a direct example of how people can keep traditions they hold close to their heart alive for generations to come.
By taking this unique tradition and making it his own, Krulak has turned the same punch that once flowed down the throat of President George Washington into a special occasion to be enjoyed by all.
"The recipe for true Fish House Punch was kept secret for almost 200 years," according to Gary and Mardee Regan's review on Fish House Punch located on the Amazon.com Web site. "The Formula was first developed at the Fish House Club, also known as the State in Schuylkill, or simply the Schuylkill Fishing Company in Philadelphia, an organization formed in 1732 by a group of anglers who liked to cook."
According to the Regans, the Fish House Punch recipe fell into public hands some time around the beginning of the 20th century, and the formula has been seen in print many times over the past hundred years.
Nevertheless, for those who mix this historical punch, the history surrounding it is legendary and so is the taste.