Punches are a very cordial, celebratory and fine way to go about being a great host/hostess during the holidays. They are festive, usually easy to make, use fresh ingredients of the season, and one preparation can serve a bunch of revelers.
Usually unsung in the punch-benefits-listings is the ability for each imbiber to personalize their own personal taste at the punch bowl. Respect for self-expression can be given wide berth simply by not quite “finishing” the punch. On the table next to the punch bowl can be many of the ingredients that are in the bowl, like whiskey, spices, botanicals, fruit and the like. Then each guest can personalize their punch to what they like as individuals. To me, that’s very democratic and considerate. But then, that’s me.
By the way, with punch you can, and should, make ice cubes as big as you can make them. Even with cooler weather, the heating systems in most homes will warm up your punch bowl. The larger the ice cube, the slower the melt.
Here are a few traditional holiday punches to get you started. Then you can move on to your own preparations, certain to have your guests wondering if you have taken complete leave of your senses.
Lemon Gin Fizzy Punch
- 2 cups sugar (Way too much by half in my opinion. Start with 1 cup or less then if the punch is not sweet to your liking, come back and add sugar to your taste.)
- 4 fresh mint sprigs
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 1 (750-ml.) bottle gin (Try locally produced Euphrosine Gin)
- 1 3/4 cups fresh lemon juice
- 1 (750-ml.) bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled (Use a Cava or a Prosecco, Brut, good quality)
- Garnishes: fresh mint leaves, citrus slices
Stir together sugar and 2 cups water in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 5 minutes.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Add mint and vanilla bean; cool completely.
Discard mint and vanilla bean.
Then stir together gin, lemon juice, 2 cups water, and 2 1/2 cups mint-vanilla syrup.
Cover and chill 4 hours.
Combine gin mixture and sparkling wine in a large punch bowl.
In the interest of serving your guests what they would like, place on the table more of the gin and the sparkling wine.
Beer in Punch is not the normal way to go, but it is something people really like, or maybe they are just being polite. Either way, you will be asked for the recipe over and over again.
Beer Cocktail Punch/Cocktail
- 3/4 cup frozen raspberries (while the recipe calls for this, I suggest that you make use of the strawberries that are on the verge of coming back into the market.)
- 3 1/2 (12-oz.) bottles beer, chilled. (Use local brand such as NOLA, Abita, Tin Roof or Great Raft, your choice of style.)
- 1 (12-oz.) container frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate, thawed (You may also want to consider the sugar-free granulated concentrate.)
- 1/2 cup vodka (Here again, something local. If you use Buck Twenty-Five, cut back on measurement)
- Garnish: lemon and lime slices
Stir together first 4 ingredients.
Serve over ice.
Garnish, if desired.
Fresh raspberries or as noted, fresh strawberries, may be substituted.
Note: To make ahead, stir together lemonade concentrate and vodka in a large container. Chill up to 3 days. Stir in raspberries/strawberries and beer just before serving. Garnish, if desired.
Again, also set cold beer on the table – maybe vodka, depending on your friends’ capacity. Most people go overboard adding vodka into mixes since it needs to be added in high quantity to make its presence felt. By the time they realize they have been over-served by their own hand, it’s a little too late and the guest bedroom will become crowded.
Our buddy, David Wondrich, cocktail expert, par excellence, is not one to be left out of any drinks discussion and so we have included his Gaelic Punch, as featured in Food & Wine online.
Dave makes note that older Irish Whiskies, when heated, experience a more intense expression of tannins. But young Irish Whiskies stand up better to a little heat, and that is doubly good news since younger bottles are usually less expensive. At Holiday Season such victories don’t always come that easy.
By David Wondrich
As featured in Food & Wine, online
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
- 3/4 cup Demerara or other raw sugar
- 40 ounces boiling water
- One 750-ml bottle Irish whiskey
- Strips of zest from 6 lemons, plus 6 thin lemon slices, each studded with 4 cloves, for garnish
In a heatproof bowl, muddle the lemon zest with the sugar.
Let stand for 1 to 2 hours. Muddle again, add 8 ounces boiling water and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Strain into a warm heatproof bowl and stir in the whiskey.
Add the remaining 32 ounces of boiling water and garnish with the studded lemon slices and nutmeg
Please note that I dare not mess with Dave’s recipe. This guy knows where I live. And I am not recommending additional ingredients be available to guests with this recipe. You may want to have some cups of coffee handy, but otherwise, you can trust this guy to turn out a balanced and fair drink for you and your guests.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com