In North America, punches arrived with the English colonists, who borrowed the recipe from Southeast Asia. The word itself translates to "five," which refers to the five ingredients generally used in the original concoction. However, today’s punches don’t require such strict standards.
"It can be gin, it can be bourbon, it can be Scotch—it’s not like you have to stick to what history has deemed as the rules," Nepove says. "To be served a cocktail in an old-school punch bowl with a big piece of ice with fresh flowers and herbs frozen into it has real visual pop."
An ever-full punch bowl will provide guests with a place to converge and chat, and as the following punches will prove, the drink can be as elegantly presented as it is easily arranged.
Circa 1870, San Francisco
12 oz. Peruvian pisco
6 oz. pineapple-infused syrup*
12 oz. distilled water
71/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a large punch bowl and chill. Garnish bowl and each glass with pineapple wheels and cocktail cherries. For a modern twist and a drier flavor, add 1 to 2 ounces of Champagne to each serving. Serves 6.
*To make pineapple-infused syrup, bring 2 cups of superfine sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil. Cool completely in a large bowl. Cut a fresh pineapple into 1-inch cubes and add to syrup. Cover and soak overnight at room temperature. Store at room temperature in an airtight glass container.
By Chandra Lam
6 oz. red wine
6 oz. spiced rum
11/2 oz. Hum liqueur
6 oz. double-strength black tea (preferably Assam or English Breakfast), cooled completely
6 oz. fresh orange juice
Combine ingredients in a carafe or punch bowl. Let stand for a half hour before serving. Garnish with skewered grapes and orange spiral. Serves 6.
By Francesco Lafranconi
6 sugar cubes
6 oz. aged rum
3 oz. Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur
6 oz. fresh lemon juice and fresh tangerine juice, mixed (according to taste)
6 oz. Earl Grey tea
12 oz. Moscato d’Asti
Rub sugar cubes on the rinds of whole tangerines and lemons before juicing, to absorb the oils. Combine sugar cubes, liquors, juices, and tea in a punch bowl. Add a block of ice and let stand for 10 minutes. Add wine and stir gently. Garnish with tangerine wheels and fruit of choice. Serves 6.