No matter what kind of party you’re throwing this season, there’s no better way to serve a crowd en masse than with punch—that communal cocktail you make once, and leave for your guests to tend to themselves.
From the rum lover to the gin fanatic, any of these four recipes will be sure to please your holiday attendees. But to seal the deal on the perfect holiday punch, we asked New York bartender John McCarthy of Empellón Cocina to give us a couple of extra tips. “Making punch is extremely easy,” he assures us. Just remember these three essentials:
1) Cold, not diluted While water is an important ingredient to all punches (alongside alcohol, sugar, citrus, and spices), adding ice instead of liquid directly to the mix will do the double duty of tempering the contents while also cooling them down. McCarthy suggests you keep an ice bucket next to the punch bowl so each guest can keep his or her own glass cool without having to dilute the entire batch by adding ice throughout the night.
2) Balanced, not sweet Because punches require both sugar and fruit juices, like orange or pineapple, it’s easy for it to get too sweet. Avoid a cloying cocktail by making a spiced simple syrup with ginger, cardamom, or chai, or try cutting maple syrup with some water instead.
3) Effervescent, not flat Not all punches require a bit of bubble, but make sure if you’re adding soda or a sparkling wine like champagne or Prosecco, do it as a topper, after the drink is poured. Otherwise, the whole batch will go flat in the bowl.
And lastly, and most importantly, “Don’t be afraid to make it boozy,” he says. “Everybody’s there to have a good time.” —Sasha Levine (@sashalevine)