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Review – The Punch Bowl

Posted by Reese on 2011-06-21 @ 04:33pm

Sweet, sour, spice, water and alcohol.  Those are the five, seemingly simple, components of every good punch.  But, I’ll ask you this.  Have you ever tried to come up with your own punch?  Was it good?  What about great?  I’m willing to bet, coming from past experience, that it wasn’t amazing.  If you’re lucky it was really good, but more than likely it was somewhere in the range of pretty okay to just good.  The good (and bad) news is that we no longer live in a time when the quality of the punch can make or break you.

In times past, a punch was your way of showing not only your culinary skills but your social status as well.  You see, in past centuries the ingredients that go into punch (fresh juice, spices, spirits, etc) were expensive and, in some cases, very hard to come by.  So, when you threw a big party you pulled out all the stops and got the best you could.  You mixed it all up and served it out of your very best punch bowl.  While the times of showing your status with punch may be gone, the times of enjoying a really good punch certainly are not.

The Punch BowlThat brings us back to my original problem, where do you find the guidance to make some really epic punch?  A great place to start is the recipes of times past.  Or, even better, start in the pages of Dan Searing’s The Punch Bowl.  In this book Dan starts things off with a history of punch and the punch bowl, amazing pictures of which are sprinkled throughout the book.

After the history section he gives a great intro on punch making pointing out some of the key lessons that apply as much to punch as to good cocktails.  My favorites that he calls out are the use of good spirits and a great conversion chart for old recipes.  Dan points out a key factor when choosing spirits for punch, go with good stuff, but don’t go crazy.  For example, a top dollar cognac is going to be wasted on a punch.  Instead opt for a high quality, but far less expensive, brandy.  Following that, I love the chart for converting old measures to something more familiar.  I mean, really, do you know what the hell a gill is?  How about a puncheon?  Yeah, me neither.

Prep aside, Dan gets to the meat of this topic, the recipes.  He includes 75 recipes spanning all categories and base spirits.  Included are classics such as Rum Punch, Tiki staples like the Scorpion Bowl and modern creations from top notch bartenders.  Each recipe states where it originated (and the its circa date), a brief description, how many servings (4-6 oz punch cups) it will produce and, most importantly, concise measures and directions.  The finish and production quality of this book that really bear mentioning.  The book is hardbound, with heavy, glossy pages.  The pictures are bright and vivid and the punch bowls alone are enough to keep you turning the pages.  I think this would make a great host(ess) gift.

This book arrived just at the right time.  I had a burning need to make some drinks for a party I was throwing and punch fit the bill perfectly.  I leafed through the pages and found a quick punch that sounded super tasty.  The resulting libation was easy to mix up, balanced and fruity and packed enough punch (pun intended) to keep the party going strong.

Dry Gin Punch

Dry Gin Punch (The Punch Bowl)
1 Quart Orange Juice
3/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Grenadine
3 cups London Dry Gin
1 quart Seltzer Water
2 Lemons, Sliced
1 Orange, Sliced
1) Pour the orange juice, lemon juice and grenadine into a large bowl,
and stir well.  Slowly add the gin, and stir well.
2) Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator, and chill for 2 hours.
3) To serve, pour the punch over a block of ice that has been set in
a large punch bowl.  Add the seltzer water, and stir gently.  Garnish
the punch with the fruit slices.

I learned a few things from this punch experience.  First, punch is freaking delicious.  Second, I need a legit punch bowl.  My ceramic bowl and old fashioned glasses worked, but it didn’t properly show my social status. ;) Third, make more punch than you think you’ll need.  Trust me on this one.

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.