Friday, December 23, 2011

Punch Up Your Holiday Party

You've untangled your lights, hung some tinsel, and put together one heck of a playlist. But once the finger foods come out, what will your guests be drinking?

While you will certainly want to have some sparkling wine on hand for those holiday get-togethers, there are few libations as festive as punch. And unlike those garnished neon concoctions at the awkward dances of your past, nobody needs to secretly spike them. These boozy parties in a bowl predate the cocktail, and warm or cold, spicy or sour, there's delicious variety to be found in an array of tasty recipes. They're also just about the easiest way to keep your guests happy while giving your cocktail shaker a rest. Look at a few basic ingredients, and you can build something delicious around each.

Just make sure to follow the same basic practices you would for a single cocktail: follow the recipe in order, and make sure to use simple syrup rather than sugar unless the recipe specifies the method for dissolving granulated sugar. If you're making a warm punch recipe, make sure to use a bowl that can take the heat - namely, a metal one - or prepare the bowl with some warm-to-hot water before serving. Nothing ruins a swinging party like shards of glass in your drink.

On to the drinks!
Swedish Punsch
There are several delicious classics that you can make with a bottle or three of Batavia Arrack van Oosten, a delightful rum-like spirit that's also made with fermented rice. This stuff only became available in the United States again a few years ago, and we're rediscovering some delicious drinks. Swedish Punsch is one drink that just couldn't be made properly with a substitute, and it's a crowd-pleasing way to celebrate.

180ml Batavia Arrack
100 ml brewed tea (strong)
135g sugar (bakers)
¾ tsp natural vanilla extract
Lemon peel, fresh cardamom

Or, if you'd like to try something a little bit brighter, try out this more citrusy version from Jerry P. Thomas.

Imperial Arrack Punch
1 quart Batavia Arrack
6 lemons, cut into thin slices
1 lb sugar
1 quart water (boiling)
Allow lemons to soak in arrack for 6 hours, dissolve sugar in boiling water, mix.

Fish House Punch
Originating in an ultra-exclusive fishing club in Pennsylvania (that claimed the father of our nation as a member), the real recipe for this drink is shrouded in mystery. You'll see a ton of variants of this one, and heated debate regarding the inclusion of ingredients like green tea. Here's the recipe presented in The Bon-Vivant's Companion, credited to a Charles G. Leland, Esq.

Take 1/3 pint of lemon juice
¾ pound of white sugar dissolved in sufficient water
½ pint of Cognac brandy
¼ pint of peach brandy
¼ pint of Jamaica rum
2 ½ pints of cold water

Planter's Punch
The first reference to Planter's Punch appeared in a 1908 issue of the New York Times, provided as follows:

"This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong--
I know whereof I speak."

As it implies, this stuff is great in warm weather, but it's also a delicious year-round crowd pleaser. A basic proportion to follow is one part simple syrup, two parts lime juice, three parts Jamaica rum. You'll also find variants that use an array of tropical juices and other sweeteners. Try making individual-sized drinks to test out the version you like best.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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