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Simplify your party drinks by serving a bowl of cocktail-worthy punch

December 6, 2017

The recycling of trends is one of life’s beautiful rhythms — and drinking culture is no different.

As with fashion, spirits and libations slip out of style only to return a decade or several later with new panache and fresh enthusiasm. Exhibit A: punch.

Offering extreme versatility, party-ready proportions and kitschy-cool serving vessels, the centuries-old drink is back in vogue. But while the concept, and many of the bowls, are still old, the contents have changed.

Long gone are the sugary, sherbet-filled punch bowls of the 1960s and ’70s. In their place is something closer to a craft cocktail, with better balance, more booze and flavors that pack — all right, we’ll say it — a punch.

That, of course, was the original intention. The drink was created in the 1600s when British sailors in India found their beer turning rancid and discovered a potent alcoholic concoction made from indigenous ingredients — rum, citrus and spices — that would serve a ship full of men and that could last a long time.

As it turns out, there still might be no better way to quench the thirst of a crowd.

We’ve got some tips and recipes for you to serve at upcoming events.

Find the right bowl: Punch might be cool again, but that doesn’t mean punch bowls are plentiful. Vintage varieties are often stunning — and a bit of retro flair can be fun — but you’ll likely have to do some searching. Start your search at Hunt and Gather (4944 Xerxes Av. S., Mpls., huntandgatherantiques.com), Loft Antiques (3022 W. 50th St., Mpls., loftantiquesmpls.com) or Classic Retro at Pete’s (2145 W. University Av., St. Paul). Online, eBay and Etsy offer options. And for a more modern look, try Kohl’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond for sleek variations that won’t break the bank.

Jazz it up with an ice ring: Don’t have an ice mold or a gelatin mold? Bundt pans work beautifully. First, arrange some decorative — and edible — accents in the bottom. Try the basics — herbs, citrus wheels, berries or edible flowers, or go nuts with candy canes, gummy worms, whatever you like. Then, fill the pan with water or some pre-made cocktail (the latter to avoid watering down the concoction, if you prefer; if the punch is very strong, you might have to water down the liquid before it will properly freeze.

Don’t worry about matching cups: As hard as it is to find the perfect punch bowl, it might be even more difficult to procure one with the ideal number of cups. But don’t fret — mixing and matching glassware is hip these days, and doing so further adds to the kitschy feel. Coupes and stemless wine glasses probably say “party” louder than teacup look-alikes do (find cheap and interesting glassware by the piece at thrift stores, World Market and Ikea).

Use your imagination: While punches are intended for crowds, many of whom have varying tastes and preferences for booze strength, just about any cocktail can be made into a punch with the addition of a little juice, soda or sparkling wine.

Love Negronis? Why not try a Negroni punch, adding grapefruit juice and Champagne to the normal mix of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Manhattans can be made into merry multiples by adding pomegranate or cranberry juice — and serving with an ice ring made with the pomegranate arils (seeds) or whole berries.

Amelia Rayno • 612-673-4115