Holiday punch

Punch is such a communal way to drink a cocktail. I love it! It's the ultimate party drink, and it has been since childhood days.

Looking back at chorus concerts and band concerts in 4th grade, the best part (probably for all involved) was the mini reception afterward that undoubtedly served either lemonade or punch the old school way—with sherbet in it. This remained true for birthday parties throughout childhood, as well as in college for my sorority's events: punch was always a no-brainer.

And now in adulthood, the idea of punch has had a bit of a rebirth, especially due to the recent cocktail Renaissance that I've been closely exposed to through Jon. His bar/restaurant, Ox & Stone, serves "Punch with friends" which is quite literally a big punch bowl with customized spirits for the group of friends who orders it. It's my favorite way to imbibe at Ox!

The beauty of it is there are no real rules abut punch; anything goes, as long as you have balance. In fact, traditionally punches were made with whatever spirits/ingredients a person had on hand, which at that time was often brandy or household whiskey.

My only note on that would be that brandy really does step up your punch, even still in 2015. It's not a spirit that often comes to mind, but it offers great depth to a punch bowl.

My holiday variety is festive looking and tasty and easy to drink, which is what I like most for this time of year, especially for a party. The powdered sugar looks like fallen snow on all of the fresh mint.

Holiday Punch

Yields about 12 servings
6 oz raspberries, divided
10 oz blueberries, divided
⅛ cup sugar
1 cup dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
¾ cup sweet vermouth
¼ cup St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
¼ cup cheap brandy
¾ cup blueberry juice
½ cup pomegranate juice
24 oz club soda
2 bunches fresh mint
1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
About ¼ cup powdered sugar

Just before you want to serve the punch is when you should make it. Start by muddling a handful of raspberries and a handful of blueberries in the punch bowl with sugar until mashed up. Pour in all spirits, juices, and club soda and stir together well. Taste for adjustments! (If you want to add more of any ingredient, do so now. Although it may not taste very strong, don’t add too much more liquor because a lot of the alcohol taste is well disguised. This should be easy to sip on and not too strong.)

Add a lot of ice, and then pile the remaining blueberries and raspberries in the center of the bowl among the ice, keeping the fruit afloat. Then add sprigs of mint to the center of the bowl so that it’s resting securely but poking out the center. Lastly, arrange apple slices (green side out) around the outside of the bowl betwen pieces of ice. When you’re happy with the arrangement of the fruit and mint, use a fine mesh strainer to sprinkle powdered sugar all over the top of the mint.

Serve with small cups and a big ladle for scooping.