They’re easier—and probably cheaper—than a cooler full of beer!
Pool Drinks
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Summer parties are supposed to be easy and freewheeling. Toss some chips in a bowl, throw some dogs on the grill, hack up a watermelon or bust out the popsicles. Keep the focus on the friends and family and being together, and don't make anything fussy or fancy. And that works great if your plan involves a cooler full of beer. But what if your crowd is more cocktails and canapes than burgers and beer? Does that mean you have to set up a full bar and play mixologist all night?

The short answer is no, and the way forward is punch.

Why punch?

Punch is sometimes misunderstood and derided as being a giant bowl of sugary red liquid that teenagers might spike at a school dance. But traditional punches were as balanced and nuanced as any current craft cocktail, and being able to pre-batch and chill them ahead, means you can serve a crowd a signature drink or two and not spend your evening tethered to your home bar.

How to plan and serve punch at a summer party

I usually do two punches at my parties: one that is very citrus-forward and one that's a bit fruitier. I try to keep them not-too-sweet, and I leave out the booze so that my guests can adjust the drinks to their personal taste. That way, if any underage folks are at the party, they can partake as well. I make ahead, chill well, and if the day is supposed to be very hot, I will make some large ice cubes out of the mixes so that I can keep them cool without diluting. Then I set up my bar with two urns, a few bottles of spirits, and some fun garnishes and let my guests help themselves. I will usually limit my bottles to gin, vodka, and bourbon, but you know your friends, so if they love rum or tequila, put out what you know they like. 

Here are my favorite two punch bases to get you started! 

Citrus Punch Base

Serves 10-12

1 gallon lemonade, made from concentrate or store-bought (I like Simply Lemonade brand)

1 quart ruby red grapefruit juice (strain any pulp)

1 quart pulp-free orange juice

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Simple syrup or agave syrup as needed to taste

Mix the juices and salt in a large bowl and taste. If you prefer it sweeter, add simple syrup or agave syrup to your preferred sweetness. Chill before serving.

Fruit Punch Base

Serves 10-12

1 gallon white cranberry juice

1 quart tart cherry juice or pomegranate juice

1 quart white grape juice

2 tablespoons ginger juice (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Simple syrup or agave syrup as needed to taste

Mix all juices and ginger juice if using with salt and taste. If you prefer sweeter, add simple syrup or agave syrup to your personal taste. Chill before serving.