Sanyal Punch features curried pisco, darjeeling, citrus juices, pineapple and chili flake — Photo courtesy of Punch House
Discreetly located down a winding staircase through a restaurant in the front or behind a single black door from the back, Punch House is not easily visible to passersby on 18th Street in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The window-less hidden bar in the basement is bustling, though, with those in the know, sipping one of its signature punch cocktails.
Punch House has a 1960s retro speakeasy feel, with red leather tufted booths, a large fish tank behind the bar and a marlin mounted on the wood paneling.
As one would imagine, punches are the focus. Four classic punch cocktails are on the menu from days past. Actually, years past. Some are recipes that date back to the 1600s like the Rack Punch, which features ingredients like Batavia arrack, black tea, lime, raw sugar and rosewater.
For something more along the lines of this century, try Dusek Punch with bourbon, lemon, raw sugar, dark ale and nutmeg, or the amazing Space Juice for Jered with reposada tequila, grapefruit, lime, aperol, black pepper, sparkling wine and sage.
Take a seat at the bar or in one of the half-moon booths at Punch House — Photo courtesy of Punch House
Take your time enjoying the cocktails. They really do pack a punch (pun intended), because they go down very smooth. A limited food menu is available but just 15 stairs north is Dusek’s, a full restaurant that has earned a spot as one of Chicago’s best new restaurants.
The place is perfect for first dates or if you want something more romantic, because it’s very dark. In fact, try to take out your phone and the screen will light up the room. The only other thing glowing in here is the saltwater aquarium. The booths are nice and cozy but still roomy to fit three people comfortably. On each end of the room are smaller seating arrangements, complete with a coffee table for your drinks.
Want to learn more about punch or how to create your own crave-worthy punch cocktails? Punch House recently began hosting a Punch Making Class, where the beverage director Will Duncan shares the history and the principles behind the making of punch. During the class, students will be learning and crafting their own full batch of punch (16 portions) through a step-by-step, hands-on demonstration. Wonder how many friends will want to come over that evening to try the results?
Punch House is located in the basement of Thalia Hall, a gorgeous historic building that is slowly being restored into a space for music, festivals, films and performances.