When you say the word “punch” in reference to entertaining, for most people what come to mind are a fruity cocktail and a beverage served in a large bowl with a ladle. Both are characteristic of punch, but neither is the defining element. One of five ingredients (water, citrus, alcohol, and spice being the other four), the key component of a classic punch is oleo-saccharum, essentially a mix of sugar and citrus oil (the Latin word translates to “oily sugar”).
In his seminal book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Holiday Bowl, cocktail historian and mixologist David Wondrich says that this fragrant mixture is what gives punch its “ambrosial essence.” It offers depth and an elegant, citrusy aroma and flavor. The ingredient is mentioned in practically every classic cocktail book you can find—it’s non-negotiable. Ask any mixologist you meet, and they’ll tell you punch is not punch without oleo-saccharum—and it certainly has nothing to do with Kool-Aid.
So how do you make it? Read on to learn all about this refreshing, aromatic base.