Punch is upping its game, and just in time for the holidays.
The communal offering can incorporate just about any combination of liquids and spices fit for human consumption, and today most Americans identify it with the holidays and family gatherings — big, decorative glass bowls, clove-spiked orange slices, cinnamon sticks floating on the surface.
Most punches are alcoholic. Some have names. Many don't — so call it what you like. But whatever it is, and whatever name you bestow upon it, we all hope the final brew can taste as sweet — and boozy, balanced, and comforting — as possible. Most important, it should be quick to make, easy to serve, and be equipped to spend an entire evening on the counter and still taste delicious. This is not craft cocktail-ing in the clinical sense — no time for hand-carved ice, shakers and hawthorne strainers when the in-laws demand a drink and kids demand attention. Punch may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a communal drink, and thus should appeal to many.
We got in touch with local bartenders to see how they make this holiday staple a little more delicious — with ingredients commonly found at the local grocery, liquor store, or wine shop so you can do it, too.
Andrew Calisterio, Okra in Phoenix
Calisterio's punch is dead simple. He informed us the word punch is derived from the Hindi word "panch," which means five. Their "panch" bowls contained five open-ended ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and spices and/or tea. Calisterio's punch makes good on the origin story, and gets a little fizzy in the process.
- 1 part earl grey simple syrup
- 1 part lemon
- 2 parts Lillet Blanc
- 2 parts Beefeater
- 4 parts seltzer
Earl Grey Simple Syrup: Over-steep earl grey in hot water for 6 minutes (1 Tazo tea bag to 1/2 cup of water). Scale to desired volume. Pull the tea and stir with equal parts water.
Joshua James, The Clever Koi in Phoenix
James bar menu doesn't skip on the spice. His punch is, essentially, a scaled up version of his menu mainstay, the #RumOnFleek cocktail.
- 10 oz Demerara Rum
- 5 oz Demerara 151 Rum
- 5 oz Campari
- 5 oz cinnamon syrup
- 5 oz lime
- 7 oz club soda
1 ounces of freshly ground cinnamon stick
2 cups of white sugar
2 cups water
First, lightly toast the cinnamon sticks with a pan on medium heat until they begin to smoke. Let cool, then crush into powder.
Combine the cinnamon, sugar and water into a sauce and bring to a boil. After it has reached a boil, let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pan and let contents cool. Once cooled, transfer contents into a glass jar and refrigerate overnight. After 24 hours, strain out excess cinnamon and keep the syrup refrigerated until needed.
Travis Nass, The Last Drop at The Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley
"This is my go-to holiday punch," Nass says. "I usually make it with Smith and Cross Rum, but that is kind of hard to find — although I have seen it at AJ's and Top's Liquor." Nass told us he has also used bourbon, brandy, or tequila in variation with same, basic recipe:
- 8 oz Seville orange juice (ornamental sour oranges you see all over the Valley, but if you don't have access to Sevilles substitute lemon)
- 16 oz raspberry Oleo Saccareum (The peel of 3-4 Seville oranges, muddled with Demerara sugar, and one small clam shell of raspberries. Let sit and muddle occasionally for about an hour. Then dissolve sugar using as little of the tea below as possible. Strain out the solids.)
- 1 bottle fig-infused rum (I use the dried black mission figs from Trader Joe's. Cut them in half. I use about half a container of figs per bottle of booze. Let it sit for 1-2 days. Strain out the solids.)
- 24 oz chai tea (Just to clarify I am talking about a spiced black tea, no dairy product added.)
- 1 bottle of sparkling wine (I have also used ginger beer, or soda water in the past as well. All work pretty well.)
Top with fresh grated nutmeg.
"I like to have a little extra of all the non-booze ingredients so I can make adjustments as necessary," Nass says. "You can add or subtract chai and sparkling wine (ginger beer, soda water) without it having much effect on the overall balance of the drink. It is pretty freaking good."
Danielle Goldtooth, Milk Bar in Phoenix
Goldtooth give us a recipe for single servings, but is absolutely scalable.
"This cocktail is a spin of a traditional Ti' Punch or 'little punch,'" Goldtooth says. "I personally enjoy it for the pairing effects it has with a lot of the holiday food we have now. Rosemary gives it a warm-ness that it might not otherwise get."
- 1.5 oz Sobieski vodka
- 0.5 oz Cointreau or your choice of an orange liquor
- .5 oz of rosemary syrup (simmer 1.25 cup water with two sprigs rosemary to create a "tea." While water is still hot add 2 cups sugar.)
- 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 oz black current juice (I used Czarina Porzeczka from Hortex)
- Shake and strain over new ice. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Keifer Gilbert, Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale
Gilbert goes fully-festive with a recipe that include loads of spice, chai tea, and red wine — sure to please the sangria crowd if they don't mind a little extra booze.
- 1 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
- 4 oz lemon
- 6 oz honey syrup
- 8 oz strong chai tea
- 8 oz med bodied red wine
- 11 oz bourbon
Garnish grated cinnamon and orange wedge.
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