It’s the holiday season! Thanksgiving is around the corner and as usual, we’re just now looking up from work and wondering where the year went.
But that doesn’t mean we’re unprepared! We are planning our holiday feasts, of course, but you know we’re spending extra time dreaming up the perfect libations to spark that festive spirit.
Enter the punch bowl.
When you think of punch, you may cringe at the thought (or the memory) of trash cans or plastic jugs filled with seven different clear liquors and as many sweet mixers as your hands can carry. The resulting drunkenness and paralytic hangover are definitely not what we have in mind when we think of holiday punch. We want to taste the liquor we’re drinking, take our time with the sipping, and we don’t want to be bogged down by overly sweet juices and sodas.
If you harken back to the punches of yore—we’re talking 18th-century Europe here—the punch bowl was a place to gather around and enjoy the delights of alcohol and good company. And while drunkenness may have resulted from too many trips to the bowl, it wasn’t the entire point of the exercise.
In fact, ice is the most important ingredient in a punch!
It’s pretty ingenious when you think about it. Punch was the precursor to the cocktail, and OG punch recipes are mainly just liquor, a moderate amount of sugar (usually an oleo saccharum or syrup), and lots of fresh ice and water. It’s the perfect recipe for entertaining. When the punch bowl is full, the drinks are strong, and a small glass or two will whet the appetite for the feast to come and facilitate the easy flow of conversation. As the punch level lowers, the ice melts and dilutes the concoction so that the last few glasses are gentler but still delicious. By the time the bowl is empty, your guests should be warmed and primed for the holiday table, rather than incapacitated and ready for bed (or the nearest horizontal surface).
This year, we’ll be making this punch riff on a French 75. It has all the fun elements you expect—the sparkle, the tart zing, the herbaceous gin backbone—but you won’t be stuck bartending all night long. We particularly love the way our Gin Recipe 02 lends its herbaceous thyme notes to the sage and cranberry flavors and, unlike the French 75 (named after a WWI French artillery shell for the boozy wallop it packs), this punch mellows in strength as the evening progresses. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a tray of appetizers and the easy come-and-go of revelers.
Pro tip: the oleo saccharum in this recipe needs time to develop its flavors and draw the oils out of the citrus, so you’ll want to make it either first thing in the morning on the day you plan to serve the punch or the night before. If you’re making an ice ring or fancy cubes, you’ll want to make those the night before too.
Cranberry Sage Sparkler Punch
Yields about 22 4oz servings (punch glasses are small)
4 lemons (instructions for peeling below)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 750ml bottle Gin Recipe 02 (black currant and thyme)
16 oz cranberry juice
16 oz water
1 750ml bottle dry sparkling wine
10-12 fresh cranberries
2 cups fresh ice cubes, 10 large cocktail cubes, or make an ice ring
Make the oleo saccharum:
Peel the lemons, working carefully to remove the peel in one long strand (not crucial but very decorative in the punch bowl). Place whole peels in a jar, add the sugar, and screw on the lid. Let sit for 12-24 hours. Fill a bundt pan about 3/4 full with cold water and freeze overnight or ensure you’ve got plenty of fresh ice cubes.
Make the punch:
Squeeze the peeled lemons and add the lemon juice to the jar of oleo saccharum, pop the lid back on, and shake to combine. Empty the jar into a large punch bowl, removing lemon peels and setting aside for later. Next, add cranberry juice, gin, and water, and stir to combine. When you’re ready to serve your guests, remove the bundt pan from the freezer and unmold the ice ring. Float the ice ring in the punch bowl, then pour the sparkling wine on top. Garnish with a handful of cranberries and the reserved lemon peels, break out the ladle, drink, and be merry!
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