Christmas punch—or punch in general—is one old-fashioned entertaining accompaniment that so many of us neglect these days. Not only does punch lend a festive touch to the holidays, but it’s also practical. You can whip up the beverage (alcoholic or otherwise) ahead of guests’ arrival so you get to spend more time catching up with loved ones rather than playing bartender all evening.
That said, we tapped Dean Pryor, beverage saucier at Madison on Park in San Diego, California to concoct a crowd-pleasing holiday punch recipe exclusively for MyDomaine. "Punch should be fun and festive," says Pryor, playfully named the Rum-Nose Reindeer. This punch recipe features a medley of pineapple rum, spiced pear brandy, earl gray tea, passion fruit, and more.
As you whip up the punch, as with all cocktails, "Keep ingredients in balance," advises Pryor. For example, "If you think it's too sweet, add citrus. If it's too acidic, add more sweet ingredients. If you take out a spirit, add another spirit." But above all else, play with it and have fun.
Below, Pryor takes us through the punch-making process, step by step.
Serves six to 10
8 ounces lime juice
8 ounces pineapple juice
8 ounces Earl Grey Tea
4 ounces Campari
4 ounces Passion Fruit Liqueur or Passion Fruit Syrup
4 ounces spicy ginger syrup
4 ounces St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
3 ounces white balsamic vinegar
12 ounces Plantation Pineapple Rum
4 ounces Spanish White Rum
8 dashes Cranberry Bitters
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 ounces soy milk (Note: Do not add to other ingredients)
First, have two large containers ready. In the first container, add all the ingredients except for the soy milk and stir to combine.
Add soy milk into the second container
Next, pour the big batch of punch into the milk and give it a couple stirs. It will begin to curdle but don't be alarmed; this is normal. Cover the container and place in a safe space, away from the cold, where it won't move or accidentally get bumped.
Always add the punch into the milk, rather than adding the milk into the punch.
Let the combined mixture rest for 24 hours. After a while, you will notice all the curdles will form a big cloud and sink to the bottom.
Once the curdles have settled, very gently and carefully start to pull the clear liquid from the top and pour it slowly over a coffee filter into another container. The liquid, after running through the coffee filter, should be tinted with color but clear like a glass of apple juice.
Straining the liquid takes some time, so be patient. You may also have to replace the coffee filter a couple of times. And, the less of the milk cloud you disturb, the easier the straining will be.
Once you get to the milk cloud, continue straining the liquid through the coffee filter. Again, some patience here will be rewarded!
"Once you have your strained punch, all you need to do for your guests is put it in a glass and add ice," Pryor says. The garnish is the mixologist's choice.
Before Champagne, There Was Punch
While author Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol may have popularized Christmas punch, the rest of the world is no stranger to the festive libation. Master of Wine Elizabeth Gamay contributed the history of punch to the book Celebration: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 2011.
Gamay points out that before we associated Champagne with celebrations, "During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries punch was often the celebratory drink of choice." One of the earliest recipes was a punch made with wine, brandy, a touch of grated nutmeg, sugar, and citrus, with the option to add raisins, cinnamon, and nuts.
From its reported origins between English merchants in eastern India during the 1630s, punch in all of its variations reflected the availability of ingredients, cost, and season, writes Gamay. It made its way to the Caribbean, the eastern seaboard of America, and Europe.
For example, Denmark's Christmas punch, Juleglögg, consists of red wine, brandy, and port, and is "seasoned with orange peel, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, with raisins and almonds added." And in Mexico, family recipes for Ponche Navideño include tejocote (like a crab apple), guava, and sometimes tamarind or hibiscus, along with tequila or rum—"making it a Ponche con Piquete (punch with a sting)," writes Gamay, served hot.