7 Steps to the Perfect Punch
It's that time of the year again! There seems to be a holiday party every night, and if you are reading this, one of them is probably yours. What drink to serve to guests is a decision that should be made thoughtfully. There are the classics like eggnog (love it) and mulled wine (no thank you!), as well as the predictable array of beer, booze, and mixers.
For us, a holiday party is the perfect venue to offer your guests something unpredictable, new, and utterly delicious. Hence, a punch! This is not the drink you may (or may not) remember from your college years, but rather a delicate, refined, and well-balanced large-format cocktail with an appropriate amount of alcohol for upstanding citizens like yourself. (Read: You should be able to have a couple without getting drunk.)
Classic punch recipes will often call for at least a 1:1 ratio of alcohol to nonalcohol components. These are usually comprised of sugar, water, tea, or juice and are used to balance the spirit and liqueur. We think it's okay to follow your instincts, but there are a few rules to live by when it comes to making punch at home:
- Ingredients can always be adjusted to taste. For example, everyone has a different palate for sweet and sour, so adjusting the balance of acid (i.e. lemon juice) and sugar (i.e. simple syrup) is commonplace. Always veer towards tart.
- If prepping for a very large party (40-plus guests), add your nonalcohol components together first, then add alcohol slowly, tasting frequently. The flavor and intensity of the alcohol should tie the other components together nicely, but never overwhelm them.
- Punch can be made up to 36 hours ahead of time. You just need to keep it cool -- a garage or fire escape is suitable if it's not below freezing.
- Use fresh-squeezed juices whenever possible. In my opinion there just isn't a suitable replacement, especially when it comes to lime and lemon juices. The juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime per guest should be about right.
- Bitters are an excellent way to make a truly spectacular punch. Think of them as the salt and pepper you add at the end of your cooking to really make the dish pop. In the case of bitters, they also add a layer of complexity to the punch that your guests will appreciate.
- To make your homemade libation feel even more special, serve it in something nice. I recommend searching your local thrift store for a funky vintage punch bowl. If you're lucky, you can find one with matching small cups. If you use plastic cups, make sure to keep 'em small! Serving size should be about 3 to 5 ounces per person.
- Garnishes are a great place to be extra festive and seasonal. Get as creative as you want, as long as your choices complement the punch.
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