5 Great Holiday Party Punches
AlamyUnless you've hired a professional bartender for your holiday party, the notion of making individual cocktails for you guests is absurd. You're the host, after all -- you should be mingling, laughing, and generally making merry, not stuck behind ice buckets and stacks of glasses. But we appreciate you still want a "curated" drinking experience -- a special holiday beverage to offer your friends and neighbors in addition to the potluck of wine and beer.
Enter punch. Punch isn't just a froufrou drink for high school proms or bridal luncheons -- it's sophisticated, festive, delicious, low-maintenance, and historical (that's right!). Punch has had its day with pirates and rogues, gentlemen and high-society dames, and even American presidents and First Ladies. Some say that the origin of the word might be linked to Hindu or Sanskrit words meaning "five," referring to the number of ingredients/flavors in the punches of days gone by: sour (citrus), sweet (sugar), strong (alcohol), bitter (aromatic cocktail bitters, bitter cordial, or tea) and weak (water).
So don't be shy: proudly pull out that punch bowl and be a part of history this holiday season.
1. Bourbon PunchBlack tea makes an excellent punch ingredient, as its bitter tannins balance out the flavors of the sweet fruit juices and sugar. You can serve this in a punch bowl with a large frozen chunk of ice, but it's also great served on the rocks, topped off with ginger ale.
1 pint chilled black tea
1 pint pineapple juice
1 quart orange juice
1 pint lemon juice
1 pint bourbon
3 cups simple syrup (2 cups water and 2 cups of sugar brought to a boil)
1 quart ginger ale
Mix tea, juices, bourbon, and simple syrup together in a gallon container. Refrigerate to chill. Top with cold ginger ale before serving.
2. Spiced Apple PunchRum was the spirit of America long before we even knew how to make bourbon. In this drink, dark rum, spices and apple cider combine for the perfect holiday cocktail. The flavor is so versatile, you can serve it warm or hot. Or, give your guests the choice by serving it both ways.
1 quart dark rum
1 quart unfiltered apple cider
3 cups spiced simple syrup (2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 2 cloves brought to a boil)
Apple slices for garnish
1 quart ginger beer
• If serving cold, combine all ingredients except ginger beer and refrigerate. Assemble in punch bowl with large block of ice or in individual glasses filled with ice. Top with ginger beer.
• If serving warm, combine all ingredients and heat in a crock pot or on the stove top.
3. Pineapple Peach PunchThis offers a taste of the tropics to liven up the winter doldrums. It makes a great virgin punch if you leave out the booze, too.
1 (46-ounce) can pineapple juice
1/2 quart peach nectar
1.5 cans of cream of coconut
1 quart seltzer
1 quart vodka
Freeze all but seltzer and vodka. Remove from freezer 30 minutes before serving. Dump frozen slush into punch bowl, add vodka, and top with seltzer.
4. Hot HesperBelieve it or not, the combination of gin and rye works really well in this recipe. The tart pure cranberry pairs perfectly with the botanical notes present in the DH Krahn gin used in my original creation. (However, any gin will do.) The spiciness of the rye complements the fall spices of cinnamon and clove. If you cannot find 100-percent pure cranberry juice, leave out the sweetener and pour in the more easy-to-find cranberry cocktail which is already quite sweet.
2 parts black tea
1.5 parts gin
1 part rye whiskey
1 part 100-percent pure cranberry juice, unsweetened
Sweetener, to taste (I like to use agave nectar or honey)
Mix all ingredients and sweeten to taste. Heat with cloves and cinnamon on low in crock pot for about an hour before guests arrive.
5. Ponche de NavidadWaking up to the wonderful aroma of this slow-cooked traditional Mexican punch is a wonderful way to start your Christmas morning. It's delicious without alcohol, but also works beautifully with tequila, bourbon, rum or brandy. I've made some suggestions for substitutions for Mexican ingredients that may not be so easy for you to find.
1/2 gallon Jamaica or hibiscus tea previously simmered with sugar (you can substitute cranberry cocktail juice for hibiscus, but leave out sugar)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise [SUB?]
1 cardamom pod
15 really small crab apples (you can substitute 2 tart apples like Granny Smith, quartered)
9 guavas, halved (or sub 1/2 cup guava nectar; see note below)
2 red apples, quartered
2 pears, quartered
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tamarind pods, exterior skin removed
Foot and a half fresh sugar cane, peel removed, sliced in spears
Put all in crock pot and simmer overnight. Serve in punch cups or mugs with bottles of tequila, rum, whiskey, and brandy for guests to add as they wish. Can strain off stewed fruit or serve with pieces of fruit.
Guava seeds can be annoying with their hard crunch, but if you remove them from the fruit, you loose a lot of the flesh that adds flavor to this punch. If they annoy you, strain off the stewed fruit, squishing out all the good juices, and serve. Or you can just use guava nectar instead of fresh fruit.
More on Holiday and Party Beverages:
- Find more punch recipes.
- See Marcus Samuelsson make mulled wine.
- Get tips on planning a New Year's Eve cocktail party.
- Learn all the essential cocktail measurements from LeNell.
- Learn how to stock a home bar on a budget.
- Browse our Christmas menus, recipes and entertaining tips.
- Want more? These 12 party punch, cocktail & mocktail recipes will get you going.