Packing a punch: The fruity drink is fun to make and perfect for sipping outside this summer

The blend of fruits, herbs, botanicals and booze is almost like cooking. Just with drinks instead of food, says Angela Clutton.

Summertime and the livin' is easy. Unless, that is, family and friends are on their way round and your sunny afternoon is likely to be spent mixing and pouring all different kinds of summery drinks. Then the livin' can get distinctly less than easy. A campari soda here; an elderflower spritz there... Here's a better idea: make a big pitcher of something fun and delicious. A refreshing fruit punch or cup which – and these are the crucial bits – you can prepare ahead of time and to which your guests can simply help themselves.

That's got to be at least partly why, every summer, we turn to trusty old Pimm's and the like. Yet beyond those commercial blends are a wealth of recipes waiting to be rediscovered and show off how fruit cups could be so much more interesting – both to drink and to make. When you bring together for yourself the flavours of the fruits, herbs, botanicals and boozes it becomes almost like cooking. Just with drinks instead of food.

Punches and cups have so much in common that to me the two terms are almost interchangeable. Not just in the way they're made and what they're made from, but because they share an infectious spirit of conviviality. Serving pretty drinks from a big punchbowl or pitcher somehow elevates any event to an extra level of camaraderie. The society ladies and gents of the 1800s understood that very well. William Terrington's catchily named Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks; A Collection of Recipes for Cups and Other Compounded Drinks was published in 1869 and gives a fascinating insight into their popularity and the range of ingredients used.

Most of Terrington's recipes – and others from around the same time – are remarkably bang on the button for modern appeal. From the simplicity of fresh mint macerated in a glass of gin or whisky and then chilled with white wine; to sparkling cider with perry, chablis and maraschino liqueur finished with soda water and cucumber; via claret cup recipes that wouldn't look out of place if called "sangria" instead. If the Spanish can see the sense in chilling red wine with fruits and brandy to ease the heat of summer then that's certainly good enough for me.

The key ingredients of wines/spirits/fruits are buoyed by herbs and botanicals that contribute as much to the final flavour as to the look. If you can get hold of them, sprigs of lemon balm or lemon verbena get top marks on both counts. Release their flavour by rubbing gently with your fingers before using. Otherwise, thinly peeled lemon or orange zest can always be relied upon for zingyness. Cucumber and/or borage are staples for adding a cooling freshness. One recipe I've found suggests stirring the cup with a twig of sweet briar – so simple, so gloriously subtle. Don't underestimate the importance of making time for chilling. For you and the drinks, but mainly I mean the drinks.

Even the most delicious of summer punches will lose its va-va-voom if it's not cold as cold can be. The few hours in the fridge between the legwork and serving go a long way to achieving the coldness you need; and then when it comes out, the best thing is to sit your punch on a bed of ice, and/or have plenty of ice for the individual glasses. Ice in the pitcher or punchbowl (and by punchbowl I mean any bowl that holds punch – it really doesn't have to be some grand silver heirloom, unless you have one of those knocking around) will just dilute the drink and not in a good way.

In these recipes I've stayed close to these drinks' traditional roots, but don't let that stop you getting creative and adding the flavours that appeal to you. Maybe take inspiration from The Lido Cafe in Brockwell Lido. It does a "Poolside Punch" of Sipsmith gin, ginger beer, mint and lime juice (so far so trad), which is then taken in a different direction with fresh ginger and carrot juice in there too. There are no rules or rights or wrongs to making a punch or cup. That's part of the fun.

Drinks to chill with

Each of these makes 6-10 glasses but the quantities are easily multiplied.

Cider & Calvados punch

Mix 1l cider with 50ml Calvados, three pineapple slices cut into chunks, the finely peeled zest of a lemon and its strained juice. Add a few good gratings of nutmeg. Chill for a few hours and strain before serving. (Feel free to nibble on the now-boozy pineapple chunks, which have done their job.) Garnish the bowl/pitcher with sprigs of lemon verbena and whatever seasonal fruits you fancy. Serve as is or top each glass up with soda water if it's hot – or early in the day.

I'd go for twists of cucumber, too: cut thin slices on the diagonal, slit each one through half way to its centre, twist in opposite directions and the cut holds the cucumber in place on each glass's rim.

Claret cup – iced red wine with raspberries and spice-infused brandy

Put half a teaspoon of ground cloves and a dozen bruised cardamom pods into 150ml brandy. Chill for 3 hours and then strain. Add to the brandy a bottle of red wine, the strained juice from 1 lemon and 2 oranges, 2 teaspoons sugar and 120g raspberries.

Chill again until ready to serve. Finish with 500ml-750ml sparkling water, some lemon balm or verbena, and cucumber slices.

Champagne fruit punch

Put a sliced peach and a handful of melon pieces into a punch bowl with 50ml Grand Marnier or brandy, 50ml maraschino liqueur and a sprig of lemon verbena. Chill for a few hours and then remove the verbena. When it's time to serve, sit the bowl in ice to keep it cool and pour over a bottle of champagne. Garnish with borage or strips of cucumber peel.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests