By Stacey Ballis
December 20, 2019
photo by Jennifer Causey

Drinks are often one of the hardest things about entertaining. Figuring out how to host a festive gathering where everyone has a drink that pleases, without having to spend a fortune or stock your house with enough bottles to open a bar. And while BYOB is always an option, you are then still stuck with an obligation to provide all the mixers and garnishes and other drink fixings.

Sure, you can limit a party to wine and beer, but that can be hard during the festive season, and even then, you can go down a rabbit hole of trying to make sure you have everyone’s favorite varietal of juice or craft brand. Then you have the issue around either having to hand-craft everyone’s cocktail, keeping you playing mixologist while your guests mingle, or the bottleneck at the bar if everyone is trying to DIY. Punch to the rescue.

Punch can be a really delicious and elegant and affordable way to entertain. You can batch it ahead, so no last-minute fussing. You can make the base and let people choose to add their preferred booze or keep it non-alcoholic if they are not indulging or are not of age. You can serve punch in an actual punch bowl with the cups, if you happen to have them, but also in pitchers or dispensers with plastic cups if you prefer not to be washing glassware for three days.

Agreat punch base is a combination of juice and fizz, and then booze to taste. So, while you can source some terrific punch recipes with all sorts of ingredients, you can also make up your own pretty easily. You can have one flavor of punch at your party, or a couple if you prefer. I often make two, one that works best with clear spirits and one that is more a match for brown goods. This usually means that there will be a very light citrusy punch that is a good match for gin or tequila or vodka, and one that might lean a little spicier and more intensely flavored that works well with whiskey, or bourbon, or dark or spiced rum.

Watch: How to Make Barbados Rum Punch

For simplicity sake, I use a 1:1 ratio of juice to fizz. I try and make the combination of juices, if I’m feeling fancy I might add a dash of some bitters or a syrup for oomph, and then chill. When the party starts, I add something fizzy to the juice, either basic soda water if I want to juice to shine on its own, or something flavored to add something extra.

So, for my citrus punch I might do a combination of tangerine, orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime juices, and then add a citrusy fizz like La Croix Pamplemousse, or Fresca, or Sprite. This is great on its own, or with clear spirits. For something that pairs well with dark liquors, I might go to darker and more full-bodied juices like pomegranate or cranberry or cherry, maybe with some Angostura or orange bitters. For this I might add ginger ale or ginger beer, hibiscus La Croix, or an outlier like Cheerwine or black cherry soda. This is particularly great with bourbon.

If you want to go even fancier, you can float some pieces of fresh fruit in the server. Put out with ice and a couple of options for mix-ins, and you have an easy and grown-up way to celebrate the season festively and affordably.

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