Punch Permutations

Tools to explore flavors and generate recipes of the classic mixed drink, punch

Food Experience Design, Industrial Design, Interaction Design, UX
Overview:
Punch Permutations is an exploration into the long history of the once popular mixed drink, punch. As my graduation capstone, the goal of this project was to study how people engage with their food and drink and to apply design principles to maximize a person's appreciation of what they eat. Its culmination was a sort of performance exhibition, where I was directly involved in engaging and educating people in this unique domain.
My Role:
Project conceptualization, problem research and development, woodworking, product  
photography and recipe development, bartending.
Course:
Senior Project Interaction Design ‚ÄĒ DES 484, Spring 2014
Advisor:
Tad Hirsch
When most people hear the word punch, they imagine bright red, sugary, fruit punch.
Punch actually has its origins in 17th century sailing culture and the British East India Company. The punch bowl was the focal point of 19th century social gatherings. In a ritual manner, a group of men would mix a large bowl and commit to seeing it through to the end.
When most people hear the word punch, they imagine bright red, sugary, fruit punch. But punch actually has its origins in 17th century sailing culture and the British East India Company. The punch bowl was the focal point of 19th century social gatherings. In a ritual manner, a group of men would mix a large bowl and commit to seeing it through to the end. 
The word "punch" is a Hindi loanword meaning¬†"five", referring to the number of¬†ingredients. Sailors memorized this recipe in a rhyme¬†that went:¬†‚ÄúOne of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak, plus a little spice‚ÄĚ. This shanty became popular in the Caribbean, where they¬†combined local ingredients like limes, raw turbinado sugar, batavia arrack, black tea, and nutmeg.
This¬†recipe, ‚ÄúOne of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak, plus a little spice‚ÄĚ, can be seen as a math equation, with each flavor in the rhyme treated as a variable.¬†Anything¬†can be plugged into this equation, so long as it matches up as a sour, sweet, spirit, base or spice.¬†
The gamification comes into play in the selection of ingredients. Each of the five flavors is randomized using dice, with each face representing a specific ingredient to be mixed into a drink. Players simply roll the five dice, place them in the correct slots on the board, and then create their own customized punch.
Other randomization methods were experimented with, including spinners, coin flips, and drawing from a deck of cards. Dice were selected because of their historical significance to pirate culture and the game Perudo. With five dice and six faces there are 7,776 possible punch permutations.
The dice have some common mixers like dark rum and various citruses and bitters. They showcase some really old-school punch ingredients that are unique in the bartending world. One of which is batavia arrack, which is a very aromatic liquor distilled from sugar cane and red rice. And there are syrups like orgeat (pronounced or-zsa), which is made from toasted almonds, and falernum (pronounced fah-learn-um) which is an almond syrup that has been spiced with cloves, lime, ginger, and rum.
Punch held an important part in British culture in all social classes. A courteous host would make a large punch whenever they had company, freeing up time to spend their guests. The punch bowls themselves were ornately decorated, made of materials like porcelain and glass, and were even passed down as family heirlooms to newlywed couples.
As a large format drink, punch invokes the idea of unity and society, by having a group partake of the same brew. And whether you find it delicious or not, everyone commits to imbibing together. This forces you to try new things and be social with friends. This contrasts the cocktail, where instead they are made individually and personalized to the drinker's tastes.
This project was presented at the UW Design Show 2014 as an open bar experience. Guests were invited to roll the dice and record their punch combination on "punch cards". Our bartending team then mixed and served the punch live. As weird as some of the combinations sound, the punches came out surprisingly delicious (with very few misses).
The naming aspect is inspired by unique punch traditions, which were named after different geographical areas, social groups and army leaders. Some of the most famous are Fish House Punch, Cape Fear Punch, Jubal Early Punch, and 69th Regiment Punch.
The dice were made in the woodshop from a larger piece of walnut. It was cut down into a 1.5" x 1.5" strip and then into individual cubes on the tablesaw.
If only I were confident enough to make just 5 final cubes and call it a day. I burned through and experimented on over 30 blocks until I had my final set.
After cutting and initial sanding, simple blue painters tape covered the entire dice. The laser cutter etches the text into the dice, creating a precise mask in the tape.
Using the tape as a mask, the etched text was filled with simple white acrylic paint.
After a second coat of paint the tape was carefully peeled off (gotta watch for those tiny counters). Then each face was sanded down smoothly and then given a coating of tung oil, for color and protection.
Mistakes happen and they happen often. I burned through 30 dice learning how to align pieces in the laser cutter.
In an early iteration, I tried CNC milling the board to create the dice slots. While it allowed for great precision in the measurements, the drill bits create rounded corners which were difficult to manually file into right angles.
In these two prototypes, you can see the difference in the square slots. The laser cut board has right angled corners and milled board has rouded ones.
The final board fresh out of the laser cutter and some scrap dice with different type treatments.
The entire set.

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