A bowl of punch turns a backyard of rugged individualists into a group with a mission, says the cocktail expert David Wondrich, who has written a book, “Punch,” on the subject.
And to the degree to which punch boosts a party’s conviviality (Wondrich serves his in small glasses so that guests “have to go back for frequent refills,” he said, “and every time they do, a new conversation starts”), it also provides convenience for the host. When you are expecting a backyard full of guests and have a large amount of corn to shuck and a grill to tend, it’s nice not to have to play bartender, too.
Fruit, spice and spirits like rum, gin and even white wine evoke summer as a centerpiece drink served in a gleaming chilled bowl. You can prepare the punch in advance and add the ice at the last minute. (Bartenders suggest a single large block, by the way, frozen in a quart container like a milk carton.)
If you don’t have a punch bowl, pitchers of cocktails will do just fine. And it may be a cliché, but at the restaurant Hearth in New York’s East Village, the Brunch Punch (Campari, wine and fresh grapefruit juice — is served in Mason jars, said the bartender, Jad Kamal, because they evoke memories of “sitting around in plastic chairs on the lawn and the smell of barbecue wafting around.”
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Makes 16 6-ounce servings
16 ounces (2 cups) gin
16 ounces (2 cups) Campari
16 ounces (2 cups) white vermouth
48 ounces (6 cups) freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (juice of 5 fruits)
Sliced cucumber and orange, or other citrus, for garnish
In a large pitcher, combine all the liquids; stir gently. Float some of the wheels of cucumber and oranges on the punch. Ladle punch into rocks glasses filled with ice, and garnish with cucumber and orange.
—Adapted from Jad Kamal, Hearth, Manhattan
AFTON CLUB PUNCH
Makes 20 3-ounce servings
¾ cup white sugar
16 ounces (2 cups) genever
16 ounces (2 cups) chilled German (or other) riesling, not too sweet
16 ounces (2 cups) chilled sparkling water
Nutmeg for garnishing
1. Make the shrub: Peel lemons with a vegetable peeler, avoiding pith. Juice lemons and set juice aside. Place peels and sugar into a Mason jar, seal and shake. Leave jar in the sun for three to four hours or overnight. Add reserved lemon juice and shake until sugar is dissolved. Will keep for several days refrigerated.
2. In a gallon bowl or pitcher, combine shrub (peels and all) with all the liquids; stir gently. Add a 1-quart block of ice (made by freezing a quart container of water overnight). Grate nutmeg on top and ladle into small serving glasses.
— Adapted by The New York Times from David Wondrich
Makes 14 3-ounce servings
8 ounces (1 cup) cucumber juice, from about 1½ cucumbers
24 ounces (3 cups) coconut water
8 ounces (1 cup) white rum, preferably Banks 5 Island
3 ounces Frangelico
Cucumber slices for garnish
Juice the cucumbers, skin and all, in a juicer, food processor or blender and strain. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and add a block of ice. Ladle into cups; garnish with cucumber slice.
— Adapted by The New York Times from Jim Meehan, PDT, Manhattan