I Never Entertain Without This: My Vintage Flea Market Punch Bowl

Updated 08/21/19

Tommie Ethington

At MyDomaine, we understand the importance of designing a home you love—one that you're proud to live in and proud to show off to friends and family. But even with that intrinsic desire to host, actually entertaining at home can sometimes feel overwhelming and intimidating. 

So, to make opening up your home a little less stressful, we’re sharing the recipes, products, and simple tips that we go back to every time we entertain. Happy hosting!

You could say it was love at first sight. Perched on a table at the far end of a vendor’s booth, it was all smooth lines and crystal-clear glass. The asking price was more than I had or wanted to spend, so I took a few more laps around the pop-up flea market. But I couldn’t ignore its magnetic pull and eventually made an offer. The next thing I knew, I was cradling my purchase and practically running for the door, convinced the previous owner might change her mind at any moment.

At home, I searched the maker’s name printed on the side of the original box: Crisa. My jaw dropped. My $38 find (all the cash I had on me) was a vintage gem, hand blown in Monterrey, Mexico, circa the 1950s. Reproductions followed, but a complete, original set nets close to $400. That’s the story I tell whenever a guest compliments my punch bowl. 

Punch bowls were the elegant centerpieces of Mad Men-era soirees. They served as a focal point for the awkward ’80s prom scene in Hollywood movies. Today, you’ll find large-batch “fishbowl” punch served in kitschy containers at dive bars. For practical purposes, punch bowls will never die out, but they’re less celebrated than they once were. I’m here to argue on behalf of the faithful vessel and see it returned to its rightful place within the party scene. Why? There are four main reasons.

Punch Bowls Have History

The origins for punch can be traced back to 17th-century sailors who worked the British-East India trade route. They needed an alternative to beer, which soured in warmer seas, and decided to mix rum, citrus, and spices. Eventually, their concoction became popular on land and made its way to the colonies—it’s even said the founding fathers enjoyed 76 bowls-worth following the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The earliest punch bowls were ceramic, made from Chinese porcelain. Later, they were cast in metal and accompanied by ladles made from whalebone or wood. In the late 18th century, glass alternatives made punch bowls accessible to the masses. It wasn’t until the early 19th century when ice machines became a thing that single-serve cocktails came on the scene. That’s right: punch pre-dates the cocktail. When you serve punch, you’re carrying on a time-tested—and tasty—tradition.

Punch Bowls Are Practical

Hosting often involves a laundry list of to-dos, but punch can be made ahead of time or, if we’re being real, at the last minute. Recipes serve as general guidelines, but ingredients can easily be swapped out with what’s available. Set in a punch bowl, your drink of choice immediately looks more refined, which brings me to my next point...

Punch Bowls Elevate Any Gathering

I love boxed wine as much as the next girl, but a punch bowl makes any get together feel, well, special. Maybe it’s a throwback to a more glamorous era, maybe it’s the grandeur of the bowl itself. For me, it’s like bringing out the fine china to feast on Chinese food. You don’t have to sweat over a fancy recipe with a million different ingredients. You can even pair your ornate glass punch bowl with plastic cups (I’ve done it). The point isn’t to make an event feel stuffy, it’s to celebrate the little things with beautiful things.

Punch Bowls Are a Conversation Piece

Clearly, I could go on. I could tell you about how, when I relocated, I buckled my punch bowl into the front seat of my car and drove it to my new home myself, rather than risk it with the movers. I could tell you how I’ve been tempted to buy more than one, because who doesn’t need a pink flamingo version or a pumpkin punch bowl? Truth is, like love, the obsession with punch bowls can’t really be explained. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.

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