"Modern usage has considerably altered the social habits in vogue with our forefathers in both eating and drinking," wrote William Terrington in Cooling Cups and Other Dainty Drinks, published in 1869. Yet the quote could very well apply to any almost any era. Any era but ours, that is.
In our era, bartenders and historians are busily unearthing recipes, resuscitating extinct ingredients and generally combing the past for the key to new fads in drinking. While this research can be full of confusing information, it can also be full of discovery.
Over the past few years, punches have made their way back to the table, like a cocktail version of bottle service. These punches are quicker to serve per person and last longer than single serving drinks. They're also much more social. Although I'd argue that all cocktails presuppose an innate sociality—after all, the dipsomaniac sticks with straight alcohol, right?—punches are outwardly social, more pep rally than pep talk.
Yet punches aren't the only communal drinks worth reviving. Search through old recipes books and you'll find something called "cups." (The Pimm's Cup is perhaps the most well known). What's the difference between a punch and cup? This is tricky. David Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948) writes that punches and cups are "pretty much synonymous." Yet there do seem to be subtle distinctions.