Punches and batch cocktails, easy and care-free for parties, can be exquisite. Building the depth and body for a memorable punch, however, has its challenges. It’s true when it comes to transmitting flavor in a cocktail, the bartender’s technique can make or break the outcome, so why risk serving a watered down version of a cocktail for your guests?
One reason, punch is part of our early drinking history and dates back to the British and the American Colonies. Said to be created by 17th century men working the ships for the British East India Company, punch was originally a base of ingredients indigenous of their destinations: rum, citrus and spices. Bringing the punch with them to the American Colonies, this large batch format has been a part of our drinking history ever since. Just like the seaman, it’s a great way to showcase ingredients endemic to our current locale in the Pacific Northwest.
Another reason, punch can be refined and full of body by following a few rules. “Punches, however simple, can really showcase the ingredients in quite unique ways,” says Harrison Wild of Punch Bowl Social in Portland. According to Wild, to be considered a traditional punch, it must contain five main elements: strong (alcohol), weak (water/tea), sweet, sour and spice. It’s tempting to combine booze with juice and call it a day, but following the five-element rule for a traditional punch will have you on your way to a more complex punch.
“For serving it and keeping it cold, it really depends on how long you would like the punch to be out for,” Wild says. “Your standard ice tray ice will work for short periods, but if you would like it to sit our for longer periods, I would suggest using a bunt cake pan to freeze as larger wheel of ice. It will look pretty and take longer to melt.”
Next, think a bit more about presentation. Punch and large batch cocktails open up a world of garnish opportunities. Edible flowers, fruit and whole spice can beautify a punch in a matter of seconds.
Although Punch Bowl Social has locations throughout the U.S., the bar programs are original to each location. A little secret of the Portland location is that they procure antique punch bowls from thrift stores to finish off the look.
Think like the British when it comes to ingredients, and follow the five-ingredient rule and you’ll be on your way to impressing your summer barbecue guests. Here’s a recipe from Wild using Aviation Gin produced in Portland. To mix up more or less, substitute cups for “parts.”
8 cups Aviation Gin
2 cups Dolin Blanc
8 cups mint tea (PBS uses Teakoe Mountain Mint)
4 cups lavender syrup*
4 cups fresh lemon juice
Garnish: lemon slices, fresh thyme sprigs
Combine, stir and serve chilled with a lemon slice and thyme sprig.
*For the lavender syrup, boil the desired amount of water. Add 1 cup of dried lavender flowers to every liter of boiled water and let steep for 1 hour. Strain flowers from water. For every cup of lavender water, stir in 1 cup of sugar until it is dissolved.