There was a time, not so long ago, when a shared bowl of drinks was practically illegal.
Like so much missing from the past two years, this is a part of life we’re here to reclaim. There is a promise in punch and a conviviality; it’s a throwback to the fellowship of a bygone era. Starting with a distinctive punch sets the tone of your gathering and exercising care in its creation is practically a love language. A good punch has to be a lot of things: cold but not watered down with ice; interesting but not too esoteric; flavorful but not too intense. It may seem easy, but there’s an art to getting it right.
Start with the right ingredients and some clever techniques (freeze a giant piece of ice with garnishes inside to keep the punch cold in the bowl without making it watery, for one), and you’ll find punch is among the best and most elegant ways to begin your event. Its simple magic is that all of the prep work is front-loaded, allowing you, once the party starts, to focus on greeting your guests without worrying about drink orders. With that in mind, here are five options, each a foolproof way to start your party off perfectly.
Green & Bubbly
Pisco is a brash young spirit, and so vodka here acts as a kind of chaperone, taming and stretching out the high peaks and reducing the intensity. This pairs with Chareau, a new-ish liqueur made from aloe, melon, spearmint and cucumber, which tastes like how a spa feels. Combine them all with lavender and Champagne, and you have a broad, cooling, beautifully floral way to greet your guests.
- 9 oz. vodka
- 9 oz. pisco
- 1/2 oz. Chareau
- 6 oz. lime juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 6 good dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
- 1 bottle Brut Champagne
- 12 oz. soda water
Peel eight limes, add sugar and muddle to bruise them. Cover and let sit for one to two hours to allow the sugar to draw out the oils. Then add lime juice, stir to dissolve the sugar and strain out the peels. Combine this with vodka, pisco, Chareau and lavender bitters and chill. When it’s time to serve, pour mixture into a large serving bowl and add a very large piece of ice. Add the sparkling water and Champagne and stir briefly to combine. Garnish with lime and/or cucumber wheels.
Deep & Fruity
This punch, adapted to a large format from one of my favorite bourbon cocktails, straddles the line between soft and serious. Apricot and Amaro Meletti fit together like a dream—the former’s sweetness adds warmth to the floral bittersweet juiciness of the latter—and chamomile and bourbon are so in sync they finish each other’s sentences. Put it all together and you’ve got something floral and pretty but still punchy enough for the most robust bourbon fan.
- 6 tbsp. sugar
- 8 oz. lemon juice
- 15 oz. bourbon
- 6 oz. Amaro Meletti
- 6 oz. apricot liqueur
- 12 oz. chilled chamomile tea
- 18 oz. cold water
Peel six lemons, add sugar and muddle to bruise them. Cover and let sit for one to two hours to allow the sugar to draw out the oils. Then add lemon juice, stir to dissolve the sugar and strain out the peels. Combine this with the rest of the liquids and chill. When it’s time to serve, pour mixture into a large serving bowl and add a very large piece of ice. Garnish with lemon wheels and chamomile flowers.
Rich & Creamy
Eggnog has all kinds of cultural connections and most of them are admittedly not great, but good eggnog—real eggnog—is intrinsically delicious and a total crowd-pleaser. The best way to think of it is as boozy unfrozen ice cream. And when we say boozy, we’re not kidding. This is our strongest punch of the batch, because we want there to be enough alcohol to cure the milk and eggs within two to three weeks. Yes, this is eggnog that you can, and indeed should, age. That is, if you can avoid drinking it all first.
Separate the eggs, keeping just the yolks. Using an immersion blender or a mixer, beat the yolks with the sugar in a large mixing bowl until the mixture lightens in color. Add dairy to a large bowl, then add the liquor, salt and nutmeg, then slowly beat in the egg mixture. Pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge, if possible, at least two weeks ahead of time (same day is acceptable, but make sure your guests are OK with raw egg yolks). Serve from a chilled bowl, keeping the mixture as cold as possible, and garnish with grated nutmeg.
Spiced & Warming
In the world of tequila, it’s the raw brightness of the blancos that garners most of the attention, but when you get into the añejos—tequilas that have slumbered in oak barrels for a few years— you open up a whole new world of potential. You could have a lovely time just drinking Manhattan variations with añejos and sherry instead of whiskey and vermouth, but add some fresh citrus and cinnamon in a large format, and introduce your guests to the deeply spiced luxuriousness of aged agave spirits.
- 6 oz. spiced syrup
- 18 oz. añejo tequila
- 6 oz. Amontillado sherry
- 6 oz. lemon juice
- 30 oz. chilled cinnamon tea
To make the spiced syrup take 1⁄2 cup sugar, 4 oz. water, four to six cloves, two to four allspice berries and one star anise pod, and combine in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to simmer, covered, for five minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. Once the spiced syrup has been off heat for about five to 10 minutes, peel six lemons and add the peels to spiced syrup, then stir briefly. Let cool to room temperature, then strain out solids. Combine spiced syrup with the rest of the liquids and chill. When it’s time to serve, pour mixture into a large serving bowl and add a very large piece of ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks, star anise pods and orange wheels.
Bright & Fruity
As far as flavor pairings go, there are good and bad, predictable and surprising, but we can’t think of anything quite so viscerally satisfying as the tropical acidity of passion fruit served alongside bright raspberries and the deep resonance of vanilla. This punch is the easiest to get wrong—vanilla has a tendency to cloy, and keeping it present but faint is the aim here—so use a light touch on the cream soda for a delightful, electric, devastatingly tasty punch.
- 3/4 cup raspberries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 6 oz. lemon juice
- 18 oz. gin
- 6 oz. passion fruit liqueur
- 6 oz. cream soda, or to taste
- 24 oz. soda water
Peel six lemons, add peels and raspberries to sugar and muddle well to bruise the peels and smash the berries. Cover and let sit for one to two hours to allow the sugar to draw out the oils. Then add lemon juice, stir well to dissolve the sugar and mix the raspberries and then strain out the solids. Combine this with the rest of the liquids and chill. When it’s time to serve, pour mixture into a large serving bowl and add a very large piece of ice. Add the cream soda and the soda water, stir briefly to combine and garnish with fresh raspberries and lemon wheels.