Monday, December 12, 2011

Punch Drunk

Punch is fun. And it makes an especially good party offering, as the hosts don't have to spend their evening "behind the bar," so to speak, but can mingle freely with their guests. Well, actually, it is usually only served at parties nowadays, though once upon a time it was a standard libation. You just don't see it that much anymore.

The main problem is finding punches that are interesting, and also not too sweet. Because so often, punches are made (or refreshed mid-party) by people who have already had way too much to drink - I am sure you have seen it: A soused host debonairly dumping sickly sweet rum into some sort of sickly sweet juice, concocting a recipe for one of the worst headaches in the world.

So, after some years, I have refined my list of punch recipes to just a few. And of those, these two are the best. They are deeply flavorful, complex, and not too sweet. They work wonderfully as holiday party punches, but are not limited to that service.

By the way, here is a good book about the history of punch by David Wondrich.

Without further ado:

Kentucky Cardinal Punch
Courtesy of Imbibe Magazine.

Says Imbibe, succinctly: "This punch from Kentucky bartender Kyle Higgins gets a strong fruity backbone from Southern Belle shiraz, a robust Australian wine aged in used Pappy Van Winkle whiskey barrels." 

It was incredibly difficult for me to track down this wine. Originating from Australia's R Wines Winery, I finally found a distributor in New York (and reasonably priced, too). I had a friend lug up a few bottles. In any case, I have not seen any since. I am sure nothing tastes quite like it (thanks to that aging in Pappy van Winkle bourbon whiskey barrels), so choose whatever bold wine you can find and don't expend energy on regret.

8 cups Southern Belle Shiraz, or other bold, spicy red
2 cups rye whiskey
2 cups brandy
1 cup sweet vermouth
1/2 cup Carpano Antica
1 lb granulated sugar
2 cups Moscato d’Asti
8 cups sparkling water
Ice block (freeze water in a Bundt cake or loaf pan)
Garnish with orange twists

Combine shiraz, rye, brandy, vermouth and Carpano in a pitcher. Slowly stir in the sugar until dissolved. Refrigerate for several hours until cold. When ready to serve, place ice block in punch bowl and pour chilled mixture over. Top with moscato and soda water and serve. Garnish each serving with an orange twist.
Makes approximately 50 servings.

Bourbon Punch with Pink Grapefruit and Mint
Courtesy of Melissa Clark, Bon Appetit. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

This is quite an interesting punch. Sort of a mix between a Mint Julep and Brown Derby. It is not too sweet, and has a tart, citrusy sparkle to it, thanks to the mingling grapefruit, mint, and club soda. The ingredients may seem a bit unusual, but this was a successful punch at one of my holiday parties. Very flavorful and with mass appeal. I doubled this recipe.
Hors d'oeuvres
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 15 fresh mint sprigs, divided
  • 4 cups strained fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 1/2 cups bourbon
  • 12 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 cup club soda
Stir 1/3 cup water and sugar in small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Add five fresh mint sprigs. Remove from heat; cool syrup completely.

Strain syrup into punch bowl. Add juice, bourbon, and bitters; mix in soda and 10 mint sprigs. Add a block of ice to bowl.

A note about ice blocks: You want an arctic hunk of ice. While you can certainly buy blocks of ice, it is is easy to use a large Tupperware container, or as suggested above, a Bundt pan, to create a frozen block or ring of ice. Just freeze the water over night or longer to be sure it is solid! Have a backup ready, too, in case the first block melts too much.

If you are not serving the punch immediately, keep it refrigerated until you are ready to serve, and then add the ice to the punch bowl. Yes, you need a punch bowl. Bottoms up!

Whoa, whoa!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tasting notes? Suggestions? Please share your thoughts...