During the Christmas party season, we find all manner of dubious cocktails – and perhaps the ultimate hell-raiser: the hastily assembled punch, using the remnants of whatever is leftover from the makeshift bar top on the photocopier.
But the much-maligned punch has made something of a miraculous comeback in recent months, just in time for Christmas with studious bartenders exploring age-old festive recipes to reignite our jaded taste buds. In fact there are a few bars, such as the Punch Room at London’s Edition Hotel, which specialise in mixing only boutique punches for their assembled guests.
If you haven’t tried whipping one up in a while, now is most definitely the time. Assuming you have a decent punch bowl, the following recipes will certainly add some festive colours to any Christmas party.
Modern Midnight Conversation Punch
(Serves a fairly merry band of 15-20 party guests)
2½ pints of light, fruity style whisky (Glenmorangie or Cutty Sark blended whisky are ideal)
2 pints chilled green tea
½ pint Moscatel sweet wine
½ pint honey syrup (simply runny honey reduced in consistency with a little warm water)
Zest of 3 lemons, juice of 1 lemon
1 sliced vanilla pod
10-15 dashes bitters (Angostura works perfectly well here)
Bring all the ingredients together in a demijohn or large container and then dispense into a punch bowl full of ice and dilute to taste using tonic or soda water. Garnish with more lemon zests.
For a warming spicy twist, substitute the whisky for dark rum, the honey syrup for a winter berry cordial, add cloves and cinnamon sticks and dilute with boiling water. For a really ‘Dickensian’ effect, stick a poker into the fire and when red hot, plunge it into the punch bowl, which will help caramelise the punch, filling the room with heaven-sent aromas. Just don’t set the curtains on fire.
For those in need of a few classic cocktails with festive twists, look no further than these three absolute stalwarts: the Sour, the Manhattan and the Gin Fizz. Purists my reel away in horror, but all three drinks can be adapted extremely well to accommodate an array of festive flavours.
Rich Marmalade Sour
50ml measures of XO Cognac
25ml measure freshly squeezed lemon Juice
12ml measure of dark orange marmalade syrup (home made)
12ml fresh egg white
A few drops of bitters (Elmegirab's Christmas Bitters are ideal)
To make the syrup, add four tablespoons of dark, thick cut marmalade to a pan on a low heat, with two tablespoons of water. When melted, strain and cool before bottling.
Add all the ingredients (except for the bitters) to an ice filled cocktail shaker and shake until light and frothy. Strain over ice into a small tumbler, add the bitters drop by drop onto the frothy top and garnish with a small piece of sliced lemon.
Fairytale of Manhattan
This festive themed Manhattan actually works brilliantly with an aged Japanese whisky, such as Yamazaki 18 year old, (with huge, rich, dark sherry dryness) but you can also get excellent results with spicy, peppery rye whiskey, such as Bulleit Rye.
50ml Bulleit Rye
15ml Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino
10ml Dry Vermouth (Dolin is excellent)
3 Dashes of orange bitters
Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir for 20-30 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a slice of orange zest and a cocktail cherry. The wonderfully rich spicy notes of the Cocchi vermouth blend seamlessly with the dryer, peppery notes from the rye whiskey.
Sloe Gin Fizz
A simple but wonderfully refreshing way to incorporate that bottle of sloe gin that your parents made for you last Christmas, (currently gathering dust under the stairs) that you forgot all about.
Into an ice filled cocktail shaker add:
50ml sloe gin
15ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon of icing sugar (you can season this with a pinch of all-spice for an extra festive kick)
Shake well and then strain into a Champagne flute or small wine glass. Top up with soda water to give a frothy, zesty head. For an even more indulgent version substitute the soda for Prosecco.
Neil and Joel are authors of Distilled, a new book, which explores the world of distilled spirits from Absinthe to Whisky and everything in between. Out now on Mitchell Beazley
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