2 pints hot tea
3/4 lb. sugar
1 pint arrack [strong rum-like drink made in Indonesia]
Dissolve, in two pints of hot tea, three quarters of a pound of loaf sugar, having previously rubbed off, with a portion of the sugar, the peel of four lemons; then add the juice of eight lemons, and a pint of arrack.
From Bon Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas, 1862
Comment: Arrack is a strong drink resembling rum (as they are both made from residues of sugar-cane processing) devised in Dutch colonial areas in Asia, particularly what is now Indonesia.
As sugar is no longer sold in rock-hard “loaf” form, it would probably be easier to rub the lemons into the sugar in a bowl rather than the other way around as described above. If enough lead time is available (several hours at least, several days even better) the lemon peel (yellow part only, not the white pith underneath) can be cut in thin strips and placed in the sugar to let it absorb the volatile flavoring oils, then strained out before the sugar is added to the punch.
Hot punches with alcohol are rare if not unknown today, but were very popular in the 19th century. Hot drinks may have been more desirable in a time when winters were colder and central heating was unknown.
The origin of the name of this beverage, or what “services” are having their “union” celebrated, is unknown. As Jerry Thomas bartended in both San Francisco before the Civil War and in New York City during and after that conflict, he came into contact with people from many nations and often collected drink recipes from them. Some of these sources are attributed in his book and some are not, and this, alas, is one of the latter.