Serious Eats: Drinks

Ask a Bartender: Easy Holiday Punch Ideas

Juan Coronado

Juan Coronado of The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach

'Tis the season for carols, snowmen, and lots and lots of punch. We asked bartenders across the country: What's a great punch for holiday entertaining—with nothing too complicated? Here's what they had to say.

Lauren Lathrop Williams of JSix in San Diego

"I love a good, wintery Manhattan. Put a chai tea bag in a bottle of rye for 24 hours. Day of, or day before, get a large vessel. Combine two parts chai-rye with one part sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica is my choice), and a split vanilla bean. Toss in a ladle and serve next to a bucket of ice and some clove-studded orange peels for garnish." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"At Christmas time, in lieu of eggnog, I like to do a simple cocktail called The Holiday Shake. 1 ounce whole milk, 1 ounce heavy cream, 2 ounces Licor 43. Shake with ice and serve in a coupe glass." — Thomas Gebbia (Thistle Hill Tavern)

"Easiest is something like gluhwein (mulled wine) or glogg, which is mulled wine with almonds added. Another fun variation is a smoking bishop, which is mulled port to which is added roasted oranges studded with cloves. Luckily, mulled beverages are forgiving, so there's no need for recipes: wine, booze, spices. Have fun!" — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"Steep a half ounce of chamomile in a good liter of bourbon. Let sit for a day. Then use 2 parts chamomile bourbon, 1 part honey syrup, 1 part fresh lemon and serve over ice. Garnish with lemon wheels and chamomile buds." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"The Oaxacan Rose features 5 ingredients that bring together elegance and simplicity. The punch is easy to make; use some of your favorite mezcal (we tend to prefer a smoky mezcal), a bottle of a medium range sparkling wine, fresh squeezed lemon juice, honey syrup, which is equal parts honey and water, we like to use orange blossom honey; and rose water for aroma. We garnish the punch with rose petals and thin cut lemon wheels." — Juan Coronado (The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach)

"I had Lynette Marrero's Coquito, an eggnog-like Puerto Rican drink, and it blew my mind! Dried coconut, large egg yolks, white rum from Puerto Rico, condensed milk and cinnamon." — Kevin Peters (Golden Cadillac)

"My Honey Punch is simple and delicious for the holidays. I make it with one part spiced rum, half a part of bourbon, one part honey syrup (1 part honey 1 part water boiled together), one part lemon juice, and lots of mint leaves. Throw everything into a pitcher and stir. Then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight." — Ergys Dizdari (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

House Spirits Westward Whiskey

Brian Means of Fifth Floor in San Francisco

"Mulled wine is a really simple recipe and very tasty. 1 bottle red wine (usually medium to full bodied); 1/2 cup brandy; 2 oranges sliced into wheels; 2 lemons sliced into wheels; 10 cloves; a cinnamon stick. Combine all ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer. (Or a crock pot works great). Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick." —Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

"2 parts apple brandy, 1 part Aperol, 1 part Luxardo Maraschino, 2 parts grapefruit per serving—stirred over ice and garnished with a rose petal." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"One of my favorite punches to make has been a perfect balanced of sweet yet tart punch. It consist of equal parts gin, Cocchi Americano, fresh grapefruit juice, prosecco, and a dash of orange bitters. Stir and pour over ice." — Ray Anguiano (Atwood Café)

"2 parts orange juice, 1 part lemon juice, 3 parts white rum, 1 part coconut milk, 1/2 part condensed milk, 1/4 part grenadine. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, and serve in a Brandy snifter with crushed ice." — Pablo "Papi" Hurtado (The Rittenhouse)

"I call this one Christmas in Paris because it's perfect for holiday parties and entertaining. 1/3 cups fresh lemon juice, 
1 cup superfine sugar,
 1/2 cup Grand Marnier, 1/2 cup triple sec, 
1/2 cup cognac, 
1/2 cup fresh orange juice—combine all those ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add 2 bottles dry Champagne and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. 
 Pour into a decorative bowl or pitcher. Garnish with orange or lemon slices and fresh strawberries, if desired. Serve in Champagne flutes, wine glasses, or punch cups." — Miri Kolici (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

"The easiest and most fool-proof punch recipe I know is 2 parts spirit (gin, bourbon...) 1 part citrus (freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice) 1 part sweetener (simple syrup). Combine all of these ingredients in a punch bowl, top with sparkling wine, season, with bitters and decorate with freshly cut fruit, like lemon, lime or orange wheels." — Trent Simpson (La Urbana)

"Eggnog is always fun to play with this time of year. Approximately 1 egg for every two ounces of spirit (bourbon with a nice amaro or spiced rum), heavy whipping cream, demerara syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc." — Dan Rook (South Water Kitchen)

20131218-bartender-Kevin Thurston_Snack EOS.JPG

Kevin Thurston of Snack in NYC

"Since I like bourbon, I generally will stick to it. My Aunt used to make this concoction called "Cherry Bounce"—a mason jar full of bourbon-soaked cherries that she'd pull out every Christmas. With that in mind, I'm going to christen this drink The Aunt Pat. Muddle 2 or 3 cherries, mint, sugar, and a dash of bitters,then fill the glass with ice. Pour 1-1/2 ounces bourbon and top with soda." — Kevin Thurston (Snack EOS)

"I make a simple German style rum punch. I take a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white wine (it doesn't matter what kind, whatever you have laying around), half bottle of rum, a couple of sticks of cinnamon, star anise, and two cloves, a little bit of honey and lemon juice to taste, all cooked stove top, being sure NOT to bring it to a boil. Served warm with a lemon wedge and cinnamon stick for the festive flair." — Derrick Bass (Willie Jane)

"2 ounces rye (I like Bulleit). 1 ounces of an Amaro (I like Montenegro). Half ounce honey (can add or deduct to taste). Fill the rest with a nice spiced cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick and lemon wedge." — Ryan Prevost (Kabocha)

"Easy Black Tea Bourbon Punch: 2 parts bourbon, 1 part brewed black tea, 1 part fresh pineapple, 2 parts fresh orange juice, 1.5 parts simple syrup, 1 part fresh lemon, Angostura bitters. Stir, place over ice in rocks glass. Top with Fever Tree ginger beer." — Kris Doyle (Trattoria Neapolis)

"Hadouken Punch: 1 bottle cognac; 1 bottle spiced rum (I prefer Sailor Jerry's); 1 cup sugar; 1 cup fresh lemon juice; 1 quart water. In a large bowl stir sugar and lemon until the juice is completely dissolved. Add the cognac, rum and water. Stir until well mixed. Add a fair amount of freshly grated/ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger on top. Cover and chill overnight before serving." — Josh Berner (Zentan)

"The Fish House Punch. It's a really tasty drink that you can make as a batch for a large holiday party or make as an individual cocktail. Combine the following and serve in a punch bowl with a big block of ice: 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, 2 quarts water, 1 quart lemon juice, 2 quarts dark rum, 1 quart cognac, 4 ounces peach brandy." — Jimmy Marino and Stephen Shelton (The Lexington House)

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