On a recent overcast summer day I found myself in the backyard of Yoko Devereaux, a friend's boutique,'helping prep for a BBQ. I arrived with a couple bottles of Beefeater 24, some Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and an array of Asian-inflected ingredients I'd picked up at the green market on the way over: grapefruit, Meyer lemons, lychees, and rose water. We mixed an impromptu concoction in a giant punch bowl as the ominous skies threatened rain. Happily, just before the party started the clouds broke. Fueled by the delicious, subtly intoxicating drink, dubbed by one guest as the 'Shanghai Surprise,' the afternoon rolled on with the punch.
Low on effort and high on return, punches are perfect for entertaining -- in the backyard, on the rooftop, or packed in a thermos for the beach. Recipes have evolved far beyond the sickly sweet concoctions served at garden club parties of years past. As serious cocktail bars -- like Death & Co. and Flatiron Lounge in New York City and Hawksmoor in London -- offer revitalized takes on old-school recipes, punches rise from mere girlie drinks to proper cocktails (very, very large cocktails at that).
For the host, great punch yields multiple dividends -- it not only untethers him from bartending duties, it also puts everyone on the same track drinking-wise. And the uniform high adds to the party's communal trajectory. But just because it's a big-batch drink is no reason to forgo craft cocktail essentials: fresh ingredients, fine spirits, and balance. Try making a batch in view of your guests -- the sight of a full bottle of gin or Prosecco being poured into a bowl filled with juices, fruit, vegetables, and even flowers is a flourish that makes a party a little more memorable.
The Perfect Mix: 10 recipes to pack a punch:
Pimm's Royale 1 cups Pimm's 2 ounces gin 2 ounces lemon juice 1 ounce gomme syrup 1 cups ginger ale ' cup Prosecco Mix Pimm's, gin, lemon juice, and syrup in a punch bowl. Fill with ice.Top with ginger ale and Prosecco. Serves six. Nick Strangeway, Hawksmoor, London
Fish House Punch 6 cups Rhum J.M. V.S.O.P 2 cups Rhum J.M. White 2 cups peach brandy 3 cups fresh lemon juice 1 cup simple syrup 2 cups strong tea Stir all ingredients in a large punch bowl, and add a large ice block. Add club soda to each serving. Serves 20. Adapted by Gianfranco Verga, Louis 649
Thai Basil'Watermelon Punch Juice of one medium-size watermelon 1/2 bottle BarSol Pisco 6 stems Thai basil 1 pound demerara sugar 4 cups filtered water 2 ounces fresh-squeezed lemon juice De-seed watermelon, blend, and strain. Bring basil, sugar, and water to a boil in a pan. Let the syrup cool and strain. Mix watermelon juice and syrup in a punch bowl, add the Pisco and lemon juice and let cool for five minutes. Serves eight. Brian McGrory, Double Crown, NYC
Carte Blanche Punch 1 liter Hendrick's Gin ' cup cucumber juice* 330 ml of lime juice 400 ml simple syrup 1 bottle of dry sparkling wine Orange bitters to taste 1 really big ice block Mix in punchbowl, stir thoroughly. (*Chop the ends of an English cucumber off as they can get bitter, and cut the cucumber into spears. Now throw into a juice extractor, but in a pinch a blender will do fine. When using a blender, strain the juice a little so the punch doesn't come off pulpy.) Jim Ryan, Brand Ambassador, Hendrick's Gin
Summer Gin Punch 4 parts Beefeater 1 part Maraschino Liqueur 1 part fresh squeezed orange juice 1/2 part fresh squeezed lemon juice 1/2 part simple syrup 2 parts soda Raspberries Pineapple chunks Orange slices Lemon slices Gently muddle fruit, add other ingredients & stir. Garnish with citrus slices, mint sprigs & berries. Top with soda. Naren Young, Bobo, New York
Pell Mell Punch 1 liter Hendrick's Gin 1 liter pineapple juice 1 liter strengthened Chamomile tea* 300 ml fresh lemon juice 150 ml honey** Peychaud's Bitters to taste Garnish with fresh mint, mango bits, thin lemon wheels, fresh berries. Ice -- Try making some in a a large take-out container, or a yogurt container -- it melts slowly and looks cool. (*5 bags per 250ml and steep for 20 minutes. When done squeeze the bags through a hand juicer to get all the goods out. **place the honey in the warm tea and stir to break it all up.)
The Desmond Punch 750 ml. Beefeater 24 Gin 11 oz. fresh lime juice 11 oz. fresh orange juice 11 oz. pineapple syrup 1 oz. Angostura Bitters Stir over ice, serve. Eryn Reece, Louis 649, New York City
Dr. Karlsson's Punch 1 part Karlsson's GOLD 1 part Swedish Punch* 1 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice 1 part fresh-squeezed orange juice. Pour into a large bowl half-filled with ice cubes, top up with an additional 1 part chilled seltzer and grate nutmeg over the top. (*Preferred brand of Swedish Punch is Carlshamns Flaggpunsch, but it can be hard to find.) Adapted from the Doctor Cocktail by David Wondrich.
Bloody Basil Punch 25 oz. Milagro Reposado 12.5 oz. blood orange puree* 6.25 oz. agave nectar 12.5 oz. lime juice 18.75 oz. ginger beer 50 basil leaves Serves up to 15. *(blood orange puree can be found at https://www.boironfreres.com/uk/uk_prod_purees_fruits.html.) Gaston Martinez, Brand Ambassador, Milagro Tequila
Fritz Fengers Pineapple Bola II 150ml Bourbon (pineapple infused) 150ml passion fruit puree 75ml lemon juice 45ml maple syrup 150ml pineapple juice 375ml Prosecco Mix the first 5 ingredients in the punch glass. Fill with ice and top with Prosecco. Garnish with lemon wheels, passion fruit halves and pineapple chunks. Nick Strangeway, Hawskmoor, London