Show us your . . . Punch Trunk | Show us your [____] | Chicago Reader

Show us your . . . Punch Trunk 

Will Duncan's party in a box, the Punch Trunk, dispenses drinks and music.

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Will Duncan converted an old steamer trunk into a punch-dispensing boom box.

Will Duncan converted an old steamer trunk into a punch-dispensing boom box.

Courtesy Will Duncan

It was out of necessity and a certain degree of showmanship that Will Duncan created the party in a box he calls the Punch Trunk. The beverage director at the Pilsen nightlife trifecta of Punch House, Dusek's, and Thalia Hall, Duncan receives invitations to serve delicious quaffables all over town. But as a matter of pride and quality Punch House serves all of its namesake drinks on draft, so Duncan was tasked with devising a portable punch-dispensing system.

The seasoned bartender was familiar with the jockey box—a common tool for serving beer at outdoor events where there's no refrigeration—which consists of a keg (filled, in this case, with punch) connected to a CO2 tank; the beverage is pushed through a length of hollow stainless-steel coil submerged in ice inside an insulated chest. "So several portions are kept quite cold and carbonated at all times," he says.

But Duncan also wanted his bar's off-site event station to be "a distinctive experience." "Metropolitan Brewing built a draft system that looks like a 1980s robot," he says. "5 Rabbit has one with cool light-up logos on the front."

Inspired by the repurposed-suitcase speakers made by Pilsen-based artist-carpenter Floyd Davis IV, Duncan found a big steamer trunk that would house both the jockey box and a stereo with an iPod jack. Below the front-facing speakers, artist Ryan Duggan painted Duncan's take on Woodie Guthrie: this machine serves punch.

The Punch Trunk has been a hit, Duncan says, and since Thalia Hall opened last month, his creation has served as one of the venue's satellite bar stations. "It's a curiosity, the essence of a portable party," he says. "It spits out delicious cocktails and music—what more do you need?"

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