Throw a Party That Packs a Punch

Imagine it: You walk into your friend’s house for their annual holiday party, and are caught up in the excitement of greeting everyone. Then, after a quick glance around the room, you see it. That big punch bowl filled with what you assume to be canned fruit juice and various unidentified spirits sitting on the table. You hesitate for a brief moment, but give it a try. That’s when you realize that our friend the punch bowl (and its contents) has been getting a bad rap for years!

Thankfully, over the past few years punch has made a comeback. Now, this festive alternative to individual cocktails is popping up in restaurants and bars all over the country. It’s in. It’s cool. As the bartenders of ten years ago have upgraded to “mixologists”, it makes sense that cocktails, and traditional fruity, heavy punches, have also evolved.

Punch was first created in the 17th century by sailors of the British East India Company. Beer was the standard drink among the sailors, and boy were they experienced drinkers – the term “drunk as a sailor” didn’t come about for nothing. Most of them knocked back their allotment of 10 pints of beer per day (it was actually safer than water). However, they ran into a problem once the ships reached the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. The beer that was stored below deck grew rancid and flat. Once on shore, the sailors created new drinks out of the indigenous ingredients of their destination, mainly rum, citrus and spices. This new creation, punch, was brought back to Britain, became all the rage, and even spread as far as the American colonies. Two days before signing off on the Constitution, the founding fathers met at a tavern and drank seven bowls of punch! Amazing their signatures were legible…

Punch remained the drink of choice until the Victorian Age. Queen Victoria disapproved of strong drink, so the alcoholic punch fell out of favor and was replaced by the teetotalling non-alcoholic version. Punch slowly faded into the background and could only occasionally be found being served at a ladies luncheon. By the 1960’s, cocktail culture was in full effect, and punch was all but forgotten.

Punch began its re-emergence into the American drinking culture in the early 2000’s. Many mixologists credit David Wondrich’s 2010 book titled “Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl” with helping to bring punch back into the spotlight. In the book he states that all cocktails were born from punch, and by looking at the wide variety of cocktails out there, it is easy to see how they can be transformed back into punch. You can take the same quality ingredients and skill it takes to make an individual cocktail, and make a punch instead. Punch bowls have come to represent everything that consumers love about cocktails: socializing, community and fun. Punch bowls bring people together. Just imagine how much fun you would have sitting around a punch bowl with your friends chatting the evening away. Or, how punch can help you meet new people at a party because every time you return to the bowl for a refill, someone new is there to talk to.

In the end, punch doesn’t have to be that headache-inducing sweet and boozy bowl full of canned juices, sherbet, and spirits. Instead, it can be an elegant and refreshing bowl full of fresh juices and quality spirits that frees up the host from making individual cocktails and adds a fun new level of socializing to any party or celebration. Cheers!

Cranberry-Key Lime Punch

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 5-6 cups chilled club soda

Preparation:

Combine 2 cups fresh cranberries, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher, discarding solids; cool completely (about 1 hour). Stir in chilled club soda, fresh Key lime juice, and vodka. Serve over ice. Garnish with Key lime slices and fresh cranberries.

 

Holiday Citrus Punch

  • 2 cups pear nectar
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups chilled club soda
  • 1 cup silver rum
  • Orange slices for garnish

Preparation:

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large pitcher or punch bowl; pour 2 cups pear nectar and 4 cups orange juice through strainer into pitcher. Before serving, stir in 2 cups chilled club soda and 1 cup silver rum. Pour into glasses over ice; garnish with orange slices and serve.

 

Sparkling Apple and Rye Punch

  • 4 cups Rye whiskey
  • 3 tablespoons Bitters
  • 3 bottles chilled sparkling apple cider
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced

Preparation:

In a large punch bowl, combine the rye and bitters; chill for up to 12 hours. Just before serving, add the sparkling apple cider and apple slices.

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