You can always judge the success of a holiday party by how empty your punch bowl is at the end of the night; or, in some cases, how many times you actually refill the bowl. (You know who you are.) Punch is a great way to serve delicious cocktails without spending a whole lot of time fussing about said beverage. For today’s recipe, I’ve included several variations of my favorite punch. Feel free to experiment with garnishes and additions to this punch, and I always try and make a regular size version of a cocktail before super sizing it so I don’t get stuck in a pickle later with a weird tasting concoction. Trust me when I say, some ingredients just look better on paper. The base of this punch is a savory mulled apple cider. If you’d like to serve this punch cold you can make the mulled cider ahead of time, and just let it mull away on your stove while you’re trimming the tree or wrapping my gift. You can keep the mulled cider in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also just serve this as a warm punch and add bourbon or rye or whatever tickles your tinsel.
MULLED APPLE CIDER
1 gallon apple cider
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
10 star anise
2 1/2 tsp all spice berries
1 whole orange peel
4 1/2 tbsp celery seed
1 inch ginger peeled and sliced
Pour cider into a large pot. Put the rest of the ingredients except for orange peel in a piece of cheese cloth. Tie up cheese cloth to make a bundle around the ingredients. Put bundle in pot along with orange peel. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off heat and remove spice bag. Allow bag to cool, then squeeze spice bag over the pot to get every last bit of spicy goodness out of it. Remove orange peel. Serve warm.
3 parts mulled apple cider
1 part bourbon
½ part Byrrh*
*Byrrh (pronounced beer) is a French wine-based apéritif made from red wine and mistelle that’s flavored with herbs and quinine. This particular apéritif is sweet with a smooth, bitter finish, and is beautiful with savory apple cider and bourbon.
Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl; garnish with orange slices, rosemary and pomegranate seeds.
WITH A TWIST: To serve this mulled cider warm, I just stick to the 3 parts mulled cider and 1 part booze proportion, and I usually just stick to one spirit. If you can’t find Byrrh, you can swap it out for Dolin Blanc, Cocchi Rosa, and for something sweeter like Cointreau or Grand Marnier, and again, make sure you taste a smaller version before you go making a vat of punch.
PARTY TIP: You can pre-make your punch a couple hours before your party starts. Just add ice and garnish right before your guests arrive.
LIKE A VIRGIN: You can make this mulled cider into a sweet and savory soda by adding regular soda water, non-alcoholic ginger beer or sparkling apple cider.
DON’T WORRY: Okay, I know you’re thinking, “I just spent 45 minutes waiting for a parking spot at the mall and now I have to run home, roast a turkey and move that dang elf…what makes you think I have time to mull cider?” Okay, first, I think it’s time that elf started contributing to the household, and second, not to worry if you don’t have time to mull cider as there are plenty of ways to jazz up this punch. You can swap out the mulled cider with equal parts sparkling apple cider and ginger beer for a little spice. You can omit the apple part completely and just use ginger beer. Try using a non-alcoholic ginger beer so your punch isn’t too boozy, unless that’s the kind of punch you like to serve at your parties and well, you know, no judgment (and where is my invite?).
Cheers, and here’s to empty punch bowls,
Your neighborhood bartender,