Okay, let’s be real: when you think of punch, you probably think of sugary (spiked) prom drinks, or a myriad of mixers served out of a plastic trash bin at a frat party. However, in time for National Punch Day this Friday, September 20, you should know that re-vamped punches are making a name for themselves as modern cocktails. In fact, it became clear at the most recent Tales of the Cocktail Convention in New Orleans that “punch is back.”
If you’re looking to re-introduce yourself to punch, let’s start with the basics. Contrary to the general view of punch as an adolescent/college-aged drink, it actually has a long and varied history that dates back hundreds of years. It was particularly effective when used by the British Navy as a way to stomach Admiral-Strength spirits on long sea journeys.
Punch, in general, is comprised of five ingredients: spirit, citrus, sugar, spice, and water. While those basics can vary by preference, there’s a huge range of possibility for the modern mixologist in working with those elements alone. Different spirits offer different taste paring opportunities with different spices, as well as different citrus flavors. The punch bowl suddenly becomes a canvas for palate-engaging taste combinations, rather than a desperate attempt to pack as much booze as possible into a drink as easily and palatably as possible.
We picked out some of the best new punches and found you the recipes. That way, you can try them at home or at the bar. Here are our top five from the emerging punch revolution.
You may not be able to get this at the bar if you're a New Yorker (unless you find yourself suddenly in Seattle), but this recipe highlights the long tradition of punch as interpreted through a modern lens. The original version of this colonial-era recipe was said to be a favorite of George Washington. Try this tweaked concoction, re-vamped by mixologist Jamie Boudreau, of Canon in Seattle.
6 ounces muscovado sugar
5 ounces fresh lemon juice from about 3 lemons
10 ounces fresh lime juice from 8 to 10 limes
8 ounces (1 cup) light rum
4 ounces (1/2 cup) dark rum
4 ounces (1/2 cup) cognac
1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry cava, chilled. Note: If you can't find cava, substitute Champagne or Prosecco)
1 large ice block (see note)
Garnish: lemon and lime wheels
1) Combine sugar, lemon, and lime juice in a very large punch bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add light rum, dark rum, and cognac. Stir well. Add cava and a large ice block.
2) Serve in ice-filled punch glasses, garnished with lemon and lime wheels if desired.
2) King's County Cordial
If you prefer your punch sweet and bubbly, try this fruity, Champagne-based punch from Katheryn Weatherup, creator and owner of Brooklyn cocktail center Weather Up. If you decide not to opt for a visit to the bar (which, honestly, is worth it for the spiffy punch service), here's how to make it at home.
8 oz. Sauternes
6 oz. simple syrup
6 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 cup raspberries
3) Hak 'Ti Punch
Canne rhum aricole is the backbone of this Asian-inspired punch. Served in the Ling Ling Lounge at Hakkasan, the Hak 'Ti Punch highlights jasmine, ginger, and lime, which are key components of the menu's flavor palate. The punch is also simple enough to make that pretty much anyone can whip it up at home, so you've got options.
Ingredients (for one serving):
2 oz Clement Premier Canne rhum agricole
.75 oz jasmine ginger syrup
.25 oz lime juice.
1) Squeeze the lime disc and drop in rocks glass. Press with swizzle stick to release oils.
2) Add other ingredients to the glass and top with crushed ice.
3) Use swizzle stick to mix ingredients together.
4) Use lime disc as garnish.
3) The Quequeg
For all you classic literature fans out there, the Queequeg is named after a character in Moby Dick. But, quite unlike the ultimate outcome of the nautical-themed novel, the drink will not deny your your satisfaction. The Queequeg, a feature drink at NYC bar The Drink, takes a slightly non-traditional approach to the punch recipe by finishing sugary flavors with a malty bottle of Cooper's Vintage Ale. If you decide to go to the bar to get your Queequeg on, you can pair it with a variety of jerkys and cheese plates.
For the honey syrup:
8 ounces warm water
8 ounces honey
For the punch:
8 ounces aged rum
2 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice
1 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 ounces honey syrup
20 dashes Reagan's orange bitters
1 12-ounce bottle Cooper's Vintage Ale, or any other English Strong Ale.
1. Combine honey and warm water. Stir together thoroughly, or combine in a jar and shake until mixed.
2. Combine the rum, orange juice, lemon juice, honey syrup, and bitters in a punch bowl. Stir and serve with ice.
4) A La Taylor Punch
This whiskey punch is the brainchild of Jack McGarry, mixologist at Manhattan punch pioneer The Dead Rabbit. Specializing in communally served punches and grogs (as well as other specialty items), the Dead Rabbit won recognition at the aforementioned Tales of the Cocktail convention, winning World’s Best New Cocktail Bar, World’s Best Cocktail Menu, and International Bartender of the Year. McGarry, one of the Rabbit’s most creative artisans, created this cocktail specifically for the convention. The recipe is a brilliant combination of homage and innovation, incorporating Assam tea, clementines, eucalyptus, and tamarind. Some of the ingredients may be hard to find if you're trying to make this drink at home, but they're around if you look hard enough. We also suggest checking out The Dead Rabbit in person, both for the atmosphere and the award-winning libations.
The zest of 8 clementines
The zest of 8 lemons
200 milliliters turbinado sugar
750 milliliters Redbreast 12-year-old Irish whiskey
2 ounces Suze Gentiane liqueur
1 ounce tamarind nectar
200 milliliters fresh lemon juice
200 milliliters fresh clementine juice
750 milliliters strong Assam tea
15 dashes of Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters
10 dashes of eucalyptus tincture
1. In a large punch bowl, toss the clementine and lemon zest with the turbinado sugar. Let the mixture stand for a few hours to extract all of the citrus oils from the peels.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixture and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
3. Remove the zest from the punch and add it to a nonreactive container (a Bundt pan works well) filled with distilled water. Place the container in the freezer until the water is frozen solid.
4. Add the frozen, zest-filled ice cube to the punch and serve.
5) Rosemary, Baby!
This punch is a symphonic, flavorful hybrid of a Brown Derby and an Aperol Spritz, as described by creator Damon Boelte. It balances tartness and sweetness, smoothness and effervescence, fragrance and flavor in a way that intrigues as much as it satisfies. Try it at home or head out to Prime Meats in Brooklyn, where Boelte is a resident mixologist.
For the Rosemary Infused Aperol
1 bottle Aperol
3 long sprigs fresh roesmary
For the honey syrup
8 ounces warm water
8 ounces honey
For the punch
18 ounces rosemary-infused Aperol
9 ounces bourbon such as Four Roses Yellow Label
6 ounces honey syrup
24 ounces sparkling wine
24 ounces seltzer
Garnish: grapefruit slices and additional rosemary sprigs
1. Place 3 long sprigs of fresh rosemary in a bottle of Aperol. Let sit for 3 hours at room temperature, strain.
2. Combine honey and warm water. Stir together thoroughly, or combine in a jar and shake until mixed.
3. Mix rosemary-infused Aperol, bourbon, and honey syrup in a punch bowl. Top with sparkling wine and seltzer. Garnish with grapefruit slices and rosemary sprigs and serve with ice.