7 Punches That Will Light Up Your Holiday Party
We reached out to some of America’s top mixologists to learn about their favorite holiday punches, sips that remind them of the spirit of the season. These drinks range from simple to complex, from light in alcohol to unapologetically boozy. They employ warm, spicy, toasty flavors, thanks to special liqueurs, grated spices or tea infusions. Some call for a large block of ice, frozen into a Tupperware or Bundt pan with slices of citrus or cinnamon sticks, but all are unforgettably delicious.
Courtesy Erik Ramirez, chef, Llama Inn, Brooklyn, NY
When Ramirez, formerly of Eleven Madison Park, opened the elegant, lively Llama Inn in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, he drew on his Peruvian heritage and travels (he cooked in famous kitchens like Astrid y Gaston and Central). Determined to serve a punch worthy of the bars in Lima that he visited, the Llama team formulated this complex yet utterly drinkable punch. It’s made with red wine, pisco and Ramirez’s family recipe for chicha morada—a traditional Peruvian drink made from boiled purple corn infused with pineapple rinds, cinnamon and cloves. Llama Inn has adapted its recipe to suit home kitchens exclusively for Wine Enthusiast, mimicking chicha morada’s flavors with allspice, hibiscus and grenadine.
- Llama Del Ray Punch:
- 5 ounces grenadine (recipe below)
- ¼ cup brewed hibiscus tea
- 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
- 7½ ounces dry red wine, like Malbec
- 3½ ounces aged rum, like Ron Zacapa 23
- 2½ ounces lime juice
- 3½ ounces pineapple juice (squeezed from grilled pineapples, if possible)
- 3 ounces pisco, like BarSol Mosto Italia
- ½ ounce allspice dram
- Sliced grapes, apples and pineapples
Combine warm grenadine with the hibiscus tea and peppercorns. Let sit for 20 minutes, then strain into a bowl or pitcher filled of ice. Add the remaining ingredients and garnish with grapes, apples and pineapple slices. Serves 4–5.
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup pomegranate juice
Over medium-high heat bring pomegranate juice to a simmer. Add sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Allow to cool and keep refrigerated.
Courtesy Gabriella Mlynarczyk, blogger and beverage director, Birch, Los Angeles
One of the country’s premier mixologists, Mlynarczyk (author of award-winning blog The Loving Cup) offers up this versatile punch. “This drink was inspired by the Smoking Bishop, a wine-based punch mentioned in A Christmas Carol,” she says. She adds chai tea for extra layers of flavor, and says the drink works equally well hot or iced.
- The Bishop’s Wife:
- 3 lemons, peeled and juiced
- ½ cup cane sugar
- 1 (750ml) bottle ruby Port
- 1 cup Benedictine
- ½ cup allspice dram
- ½ cup cChai tea-infused simple syrup (recipe below)
- ½ ounce orange bitters
- Slices of blood oranges, for garnish
- Pink peppercorns, for garnish
- Chai Tea-Infused Simple Syrup:
- 3 chai teabags
- 3 cups cane sugar
Several hours before preparing the punch, freeze water and fruit slices, if desired, in a Bundt mold.
Muddle lemon rind with cane sugar. Let sit for up to 4 hours. Add lemon juice and stir. Pour lemon syrup into a pitcher, and add remaining ingredients. Stir well, and chill for 1 hour. When ready to serve, pour punch into a bowl over the ice block. Garnish with blood orange wheels and pink peppercorns. Serves 6–8.
To serve hot: Add all ingredients except oranges to a nonreactive pan. Warm through, but don’t boil. Pour into punch bowl. Garnish with orange slices.
Chai Tea-Infused Simple Syrup
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for 5 minutes. Discard teabags, add sugar and return to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Let cool.
Courtesy Holly Booth, mixologist, High West Saloon & Distillery, Park City, UT
Running one of Park City’s most well-regarded bars, Booth takes pride in her seasonal punch. Booth says it employs the basic building blocks of any good punch—sour (lemon juice), sweet (maple syrup), strong (Bourbon and rum) and weak (Sherry). The resulting smell is reminiscent of spiced bread, thanks to the cinnamon, maple syrup and Bourbon.
- 1¼ cups Bourbon, like High West American Prairie
- 1¼ cups aged rum, like Ron Zacapa 23
- 2½ cups Lustau Don Nuño Oloroso Sherry
- 2 cups fresh lemon juice, plus 1 ounce
- 1¼ cups Grade-A maple syrup
- Fresh grated cinnamon, to taste
- Cinnamon sticks (optional)
Pour all ingredients into a pitcher or punch bowl over ice, ideally 1-inch cubes or larger. Stir gently and serve. Garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick, if desired. Serves 8–10.
Courtesy Rod Weaver, head bartender, Husk, Charleston, SC
“This drink was inspired by my walks through winter markets of Europe, and my fond memories of Grandma’s apple cobbler,” says Weaver, head bartender at arguably Charleston’s buzziest restaurant. “Somehow in my head, these things share space. There is no reason why they do, but they do. I was going to submit an entirely different drink until I started pondering what is winter to me. This is it.”
- 2 large Honey Crisp apples, peeled and cubed (with seeds)
- ½ stick salted butter
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ½ cup apple juice
- 1 cup apple brandy
- ½ cup French Merlot
- ¼ cup Sercial Madeira
- Lemon or orange slices, for garnish
- Cloves, for garnish
- Star anise pods, for garnish
Cook the apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon on low-to-medium heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes the consistency of applesauce. Remove from heat. Stir the remaining ingredients (except for garnishes) into the sauce. Press mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small crockpot or saucepan. Warm punch and serve in heat-resistant glass mugs. Garnish with lemon or orange slices, a clove and a star anise pod. Serves 6.
Courtesy of John Codd, lead bartender of Gaspar’s Cognac Room, San Francisco CA
Gaspar’s Cognac Room has 50 brandy-based cocktails, many perfect for cold nights. For the holidays, however, Codd prefers a drink called a cup. “So what’s the difference between a punch and cup? Punch is made with wine, generally iced, and a cup would include whiskey, brandy or beer, and might be served hot. Perhaps more to the point, cups are often associated with festivities.” This is one his personal favorites, which you won’t find at Gaspar.
- 10 ounces Germain-Robin brandy
- 5 ounces St. George Spiced Pear
- 5 ounces lemon juice
- 5 ounces pineapple juice
- 3 ounces simple syrup
- 20 ounces apple cider
- Sliced cucumber, for garnish
- Lemon peels, for garnish
Combine liquors, lemon juice, pineapple juice and syrup in pitcher or bowl over fresh ice or big block ice, with apple cider added on top. Serve in a rocks glass or “cup.” Garnish with the cucumber and a lemon peel. Serves 5–6.
Courtesy David Gallardo, bar manager, Lolo, San Francisco
For his company holiday party, Gallardo made a delicious punch with “this fruity, slightly over-sweet flavor that always reminds me of Christmas time.” Though Lolo specializes in mezcal, this punch relies on vermouth and Prosecco. “It’s a low-alcohol content punch, so the party can last longer without having to deal with drunks after two hours,” says Gallardo with a laugh.
- 1½ cups dry vermouth, like Lo-Fi
- ¾ cup Campari
- ¾ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ cup rich syrup (use 2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2¼ cups Prosecco
- Lemon wheels, for garnish
Several hours before making the punch, freeze water in a loaf pan, adding lemon wheels, if desired.
In a punch bowl, combine all ingredients except Prosecco and garnish. Stir until blended. Just before serving, pour the Prosecco into the bowl, and stir gently. Add ice block, and garnish with lemon wheels. Serves 5–6.
Courtesy Joaquin Simó, bartender/partner, Pouring Ribbons, New York City
Pouring Ribbons touts one of New Your City’s most inventive cocktail programs (currently, the menu is centered around American highway Route 66). Simó created this holiday drink while working at Death & Co. It relies on high-quality Tequila and apple cider. “Don’t skimp,” he says. “This is the perfect time to take advantage of all the lovely ciders that are some of the only fresh things to buy in the farmers’ markets in the cold-weather months.” Be advised: the punch’s name serves as a warning.
- Lights Out Punch:
- 1½ cups Spiced Black Tea-Infused Cinzano Sweet Vermouth (recipe below)
- 1 (750ml) bottle reposado Tequila (Simó prefers Tapatio, Siembra Azul or Fortaleza)
- 1½ cups apple cider
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup rich Demerara syrup (dissolve 2 cups Demerara sugar in 1 cup hot water)
- 2½ teaspoons Angostura bitters
- 3 cups club soda
- Apple slices, for garnish
- Freshly grated cinnamon, for garnish
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
- Spiced Black Tea-Infused Cinzano Sweet Vermouth:
- 3 tablespoons spiced black tea (Simó uses MarketSpice Cinnamon Orange)
- 1 (750ml) bottle Cinzano sweet vermouth
Several hours before making the punch, freeze water in a Tupperware container, adding apple slices or cinnamon sticks, if desired. Also, infuse the vermouth as directed below. Refrigerate cider, tequila, syrup and club soda prior to combining. When ready to serve, combine all ingredients except garnishes in a punch bowl, adding the soda last. Add ice block to bowl. Garnish lavishly with the apple slices, cinnamon and nutmeg. Serves 10–12.
Spiced Black Tea-Infused Cinzano Sweet Vermout:
Pour tea and vermouth into a large bowl. Steep for 1 hour. Strain, re-bottle and refrigerate.
- 1Llama Del Rey Punch
- 2The Bishop’s Wife
- 3High West Holiday Punch
- 4Tarte Aux Pomme Chaud
- 5Cider Cup A la Ensor (Cider Cup #9)
- 6Christmas Cider Sham
- 7Lights Out Punch