Punch Recipes for a Cool, yet Thrifty, Party Drink

Aching to throw a post-holiday soiree, but low on funds? Fret not! Satisfy your social butterflies with a quasi-cocktail party. Instead of shelling out to restock the bar, or trying to buy enough beer to quench the guzzlers and micro-brew aficionados both, try one of mom’s standbys – punch! Okay, it doesn’t sound that hip. It looks and tastes fabulous, though, and only requires one spirit and one bowl per recipe. No bartending, no scrounging for the right glassâÂ?¦ just ladle and enjoy.

To get started, either borrow mom’s punchbowl with the matching crystal cup clips, or splurge on your own. A set retails for only $10-15 (sometimes less) at discount stores. If you’ll be entertaining a large crowd, pick up extra clear cups at a party supply store. Remember to use a non-white tablecloth, lest the splattered buffet look like mafia hit night. Experiment with the recipes below. Add your favorite brands, but don’t worry about using anything top shelf. Go with fresh, seasonal juices first to avoid creating a grown-up version of Kool Aid. Then let your creativity shine with funky garnishes.

Call mom again and borrow her bundt cake or Jell-O mold. Fill it halfway with water, then add slices of citrus fruit, maraschino cherries, edible flowers, bright candies, or peppermint sprigs. Fill remainder, moving garnishes around so they don’t puddle at the bottom. Freeze. Release from the mold by holding the sides under a warm tap. Voila! You’ve created a festive ice ring for your party bowl’s centerpiece. You can add one fruit slice to each pocket in your ice cube tray instead, if you’d rather that each glass had it’s own garnish. Plastic ices cubes in bright novelty shapes work well and keep the punch from getting watery. If you’re feeling very adventurous, show off your concoction with an acrylic fountain. They can be rented or purchased from the wedding department of craft stores, where you’ll also find lots of kitschy items to decorate your bowl, cups, and table.

On to the yummy stuff�.

Spring Wine Punch

6 cups peeled and cut seasonal fruit
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
8 cups chilled white wine
2 measures Cointreau
1 measure maraschino or other fruit liqueur

Place fruit in bowl first and sprinkle with sugar. Peaches, strawberries, plums, and kiwis work much better than bananas. Let stand for about an hour to bring out the natural juices. Then fill the bowl more than halfway with ice. (Don’t scrimp on ice – this punch is potent!) Pour in wine, Cointreau, and liqueur, and stir very well. Garnish and enjoy! Serves 12.

Royal Purple Punch

2 bottles California Claret
2 large bottles ginger ale
lemons for garnish
cloves, also for garnish

Pour wine and ginger ale over a generous amount of ice in the punch bowl. Slice the lemon thinly. Stud each circle of lemon with cloves and float on top. Serves 10.

Planter’s Punch

juice of 8 limes
juice of 4 lemons
juice of 4 oranges
1 cup pineapple juice
16 ounces rum
1 tablespoon Curacao

Old school, but still delicious! Fill punch bowl with cubes or shaved ice. Add rum and juices, then Curacao. Stir well and decorate with fruit slices and mint sprigs. Serves 8.

Cowboy Punch

9 lemons
3 cups sugar
1 cup grapefruit juice
3 cans light beer

Zest lemons and set aside. Mix sugar with three cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the sugar has dissolved, add lemon zest. Cover the pan and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then strain the mixture into a pitcher. Toss the zest and let the rest cool. Juice the peeled lemons. Add lemon and grapefruit juices to the mixture. Stir well. Set the pitcher in the fridge for at least two hours. Pour in the punch bowl and add ice cold beer. Garnish with cherries. Serves 12.

Happy ladling! Please remember: even if it’s “just punch” someone still has to be the key master. Something this delicious will be drunk with abandon.

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