Just when I thought the tradition of a good holiday punch was lost, I received David Wondrich's new book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. If you're a foodie (or a drinkie for that matter) get yourself a copy and share a bowl of good, holiday punch.
The book starts off talking about what punch is and discusses several historical recipes, one of which is from Charles Dickens. Who can resist a punch that is credited to Dickens? The book seems to indicate that most punches are an alcoholic extravaganza, but my favorite Christmas punch has none at all. Of course to any fruit punch you can add vodka which doesn't change the taste or champagne if you want some sparkle. If you do this, I feel it only fair that you warn your guests. I guess most people are like Wondrich because at my recent Christmas party I made my non-alocholic fruit punch the center piece of my drinks table and I was asked by many if it had been spiked. For Christmas I often just make a simple red fruit punch, laced only with 7-Up. It's cold, crisp, refreshing and kid-friendly. I make a fruit ring with lemons, limes and oranges frozen in fruit juice. It not only keeps the bowl cold it has the appearance of a wreath. For the first time this year someone asked me if it was a plastic wreath decoration. Oh boy! Maybe the punch was spiked afterall. :)
The book also talks about the actual punch bowls. I have a large crystal punch bowl (shown above) with a matching ladle. I rarely use the punch cups for parties, but it has those too. Of course you can make punch in any old container and from my college days I remember several punches made in buckets, salad bowls and even a kettle. Dickens, in the beginning of his recipe, instructs one to use a "very strong common basin... which may be broken, in case of accident, without damage to the owner's peace or pocket." On punch vessels, Wondrich writes: "I've made Punch successfully in silver bowls, ones of fine china and of expensive cut glass. I've also made it successfully in pasta pots, Le Creuset Dutch ovens, plastic bowls, melamine bowls, tin buckets, spackle buckets, salad spinners..., orange plastic things from Home Depot, large earthenware flower-pots, galvanized washtubs, and a host of other miscellaneous vessels". In short most any container will do, but take care to note in the recipe if it includes setting it aflame as does the Dicken's punch. In that case, you are looking for a flame-proof punch container!
The Dickens's recipe calls for 6 ounces Demerara sugar, 3 lemons, 20 ounces of rum, 6 ounces Courvosier VSOP, and 40 Ounces of water, which yields two quarts of punch. Wondrich's list of rums that are good for punches is important. Rum has mellowed into something smooth and more drinkable, over the years, so make an effort to follow his advice if you can find the rum he suggests. As you can see, this punch will have a kick.
I also think Sangria makes an excellent punch and I also find guests enjoy a cold spicd rum and tea punch. I also have a good recipe for a non-alcholic sherbert punch as well as a cranberry tea punch.
New Year's Eve Punch
I think a champagne punch for New Year's Eve is a wonderful idea, although you can serve the following punches anytime of the year. A good champagne punch is always light and refreshing, and good for most parties, winter and summer. It's pretty simple to make and looks beautiful and of course provides that champagne necessary to ring in the New Year.
Make the punch ring (see ingredient list below) of the appropirate size for the punch bowl. The ring must fit comfortably in the bowl and give guests room to ladel out the punch. Fill the ring with the lemonade and sliced strawberries and freeze for at least three hours. Place the ingredients for the punch in the refrigerator and assemble just prior to guest arrival. If you are using the ingredients from Option B you may combine all of the ingredients except the Champagne and refrigerate (to save space in your refrigerator.)
Just prior to guest arrival, assemble the punch ingredients and add the frozen ring last. It will make your event more festive and fun and bring back an old yet welcome holiday tradition!
My best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year!
For the Punch (Option A, Serves 15):
Two 750 ml bottles of Champagne or other dry sparkling wine, chilled
One 2 litre bottle of ginger ale, chilled
Sixteen ounces of lemonade, chilled (no pulp)
Sixteen ounces orange juice, chilled (no pulp)
Fifteen strawberries, sliced
For the Punch (Option B, Serves 25):
One cup fresh lemon juice (5 lemons) strained
One cup no-pulp orange juice
One cup pinapple juice
One cup triple sec (or other orange liquor)
Two-thirds (2/3) cup grenadine
Two cups Cognac
Three 750 ml bottles of Cchampagne or other dry sparkling wine
For the Ice Ring:
Lemonade (no pulp) or Pineapple Juice
Sliced strawberries or oranges