Ice-Breaker Meets
Punch is a fundamentally social drink,
in a way that individually crafted cock-
tails simply can not be, say mixologists.
“Punch is all about shared merriment,”
says Joaquin Simo, a partner at Pouring
Ribbons, a Lower East Side Manhattan
bar. “And it’s a great way to save time
for servers.”
As Damon Boelte, bar director at
Frankies and Prime Meats in Brooklyn,
notes, “If you take the whole spectrum
of drinks, Punch is without doubt the
most social of drinks.” He adds, “We of-
fer Punch every day at Prime Meats; it’s
priced at $5 and we serve it in our col-
lection of antique Punch glasses.” And
it is a steady, profitable seller. Boelte
reports, “Punch accounts for about
eight to ten percent of our bar business,
which is actually quite substantial as we
are known as a cocktail destination.”
As best-selling author of
, drinks historian Dave Wondrich
adds a very practical note in serving
Punch whether at a bar or at home:
“For a busy, craft-cocktail type bar, it
works like it does for home entertain-
ers: It gives them a way of serving large
parties quickly with something deli-
cious. The bartenders can knock out
a bowl in as much time as it takes to
make a single drink, and that’s six or
eight people taken care of happily—
sharing a bowl of punch is a fun social
In Dave Wondrich’s book
, the author
details four essential steps to making an
authentic, savory Punch.
The “Ambrosial Essence”
of Jerry Thomas
Wondrich credits Jerry Thomas, the 19
century father-of-all-things-cocktail, with
underlining the importance of the foundation
of all great Punches: Oleo-saccharum, or
“oil-sugar.” This “ambrosial essence” is a
mixture of sugar and lemon oils, achieved
by peeling the yellow skin of the lemons (not
the white pulp underneath) and putting these
peeled curls into an appropriate measure of
sugar for a minimum of 30 minutes, but the
longer the better. This infuses the sugar with
a deep lemony character, imparting depth of
flavor to any serious Punch.
This is the name of the base liquid blend of
lemon or citrus juice in any authentic Punch.
Depending on the specific recipe, the addi-
tion of a little water, to the shrub in advance
of mixing in other spirits is critical, enabling
spice and other ingredients to achieve their
fullest flavors. Hint: Wondrich recommends
the use of boiling water.
The Order
Either by trial-and-error in creating a new
Punch recipe, or in scrupulously following
the sequence in mixing the remainder of
ingredients in an established Punch recipe,
the order in adding each ingredient is critical
to the successful blending of a Punch.
Wondrich cautions that be it a single drink or
crafting a large bowl of Punch, pay special
attention to the proportions of the constitu-
ent characteristics in a given recipe: sweet,
sour, strong and weak.
Keys to
Concocting the Perfect Punch
ritual—and one bartender who can get
back to slinging drinks for the cocktail
geeks at the bar.”
Francesco Lafranconi, executive di-
rector of mixology and spirits education
for Southern Wine and Spirits of Ne-
vada, whose clients include major na-
tional hotel groups as well as many Las
Vegas properties where he is based, says,
“The Punch shared at the table is a true
manifestation of conviviality, it cre-
ates an atmosphere of ‘reunion’ among
friends, a jovial way to share the same
drinking experience/recipe together.”
Punch presentation is key as well,
notes Lafranconi: “Nowadays, punch is
often the more hip and trendy alterna-
tive to Margarita and Sangria pitchers.
The vessel is very important too; it can
span from milk glass punch bowls to
acrylic ones.” And he underscores the
idea that Punch is also a labor-saving
choice for large parties: “Implement-
ing punch recipe programs for private
functions would allow the bartenders
to serve dozen of drinks in a very short
period of time, versus individual crafted
drinks. From a hotel banquet depart-
ment perspective, this would allow less
bar staff and ‘open bar’ ingredients to be
involved, thus cutting labor and mise
en place needs.”
Whether it’s a classic from the 19
century or an original created with sea-
sonal ingredients and the finest spirits,
Punch today is punching well above its
already potent strength for savvy bar
owners, restaurateurs and food and bev-
erage managers at leading hotels.
Todd Thrasher,
co-owner and
bartender, Bar TNT
in Arlington, VA
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