The Edison, Los Angeles, CA (2008)

There’s been a bit of a resurgence in punch these last couple years, led by two fronts. One is from craft bartenders wanting to make sure everyone in a crowded bar gets a quick drink when the line starts backing up. The other is David Wondrich, booze historian, and his fascinating book “Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.” And for good reason: one of the simplest ways to make sure a large party is sufficiently quenched is with a big bowl of punch. Sure, it’s a bit of work upfront that you’ll need to plan far ahead for, but it frees you – the host – to kick back a bit when your guests arrive. They’ll serve themselves and gather around the punch bowl just like in Colonial times. Nice how some things never change!

This particular recipe comes from The Edison in Downtown Los Angeles. Of all the punch recipes I’ve tried recently, this one knocks the rest to the mat with one tap. Delicious, just strong enough, and perfectly balanced. Plus, you’ll pick up a fancy new word to bandy about: “oleosaccharum.” This is another place to use that batch of homemade grenadine you made – please don’t use that fake toxic-red shit.

Look for glass punch bowl sets at thrift stores or estate sales. You’ll find fantastic-looking vintage pieces, sometimes even complete sets with a dozen or more punch cups, edge hooks, and a ladle. I regularly see them in my area for under $20.

To maintain dilution when you serve your punch, you’ll want to hand-fashion a large block of ice instead of using ice cubes, which would melt too quickly…

Easy Ice: Find a freezer-safe bowl that fits well inside your punch bowl, with plenty of room for ladling around the edges. Fill the bowl with water and let freeze overnight. When ready, take the ice out, invert the bowl on the counter, and let it drop out (takes a few minutes).

Not-So-Easy (But Really Freaking Awesome) Ice: Fill a small Igloo lunch cooler with water and let freeze 36 hours. When frozen through, invert the cooler in the sink and let it thaw a bit, then slide out. It’ll take some time – but don’t worry, it’ll announce itself when it drops. You won’t miss it. Wearing protective gloves and using a bread knife, carefully carve away the slush and cloudiness at the bottom of the block to reveal a huge hunk of crystal-clear beauty. Round the corners by sawing and hacking, then shape the block to fit your punch bowl. When finished, you can store the block in a gallon Ziploc in your freezer until needed.

THE KIT

Hardware: Measuring cups & spoons, Muddler, Strainer, Slotted spoon
Ice: Ice block
Glassware: Punch bowl & punch cups (with ladle)
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Wild Turkey 81, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Lemon oleosaccharum, Grenadine, Champagne
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Angostura bitters

HOW TO

OLEOSACCHARUM
Peel from end to end, avoiding the bitter white pith:
6 lemons

Reserve peeled lemons for juicing. In the punch bowl, combine peels with:
10 tablespoons superfine sugar (not Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar – run regular white sugar through a dry electric blender if you can’t get superfine)

Muddle well to abrade lemon peel and begin expressing zest oils into the sugar. Stir to combine and let sit at least one hour, stirring occasionally. It’s done when the sugar is no longer gritty and the lemon syrup is smooth and fragrant.

PUNCH
To the oleosaccharum in the punch bowl, add:
4 cups bourbon whiskey (works out to an entire 750 ml bottle plus more)
2 cups lemon juice (strained well to remove pulp and small seeds)
1 cup grenadine
8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 cups cold water

Stir to blend, then using a hand-held strainer or slotted spoon, remove the lemon peels, making sure they don’t bring any of that oleosaccharum with them. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Just before your guests arrive, add the ice block and:

1 1/2 cups Champagne (about a quarter of a 750 ml bottle)

Stir to blend and then relax. You’re done.

MAKES 20 SERVINGS

Medieval Europe (1500), maybe
Clyde Common, Portland (2008)

It’s one thing to stir a shot of whiskey, brandy, or rum into some store-bought egg nog. That was good enough for me until I read about this simple homemade technique on Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s blog. Where the commercial variety of egg nog is thick and syrupy, almost gelatinous, this do-it-yourself version is light, silky, and deliciously fattening. Give this to someone who says they hate Egg Nog and you’ll most likely have a convert.

Bourbon gives this the familiar egg-noggy flavor. For a contemporary gourmet spin, try what they’ve been doing at Clyde Common: almost-equal parts añejo tequila (Gran Centenario is a good bargain) and amontillado sherry (look for Lustau). A touch more sherry, a touch less tequila.

Historically, Egg Nog can be traced to Medieval Europe, where warm or cold spiced egg drinks were spiked with wine or sherry. Rum, then whiskey, became the norm as the drink migrated to Colonial America (and George Washington liked his with rye whiskey, rum, and sherry – truly democratic).

THE KIT

Hardware: Electric blender, Jigger, Nutmeg grater or microplane
Glassware: Punch cup
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey 81, Four Roses yellow label)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Egg, White sugar, Whole milk, Heavy cream
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Whole nutmeg

HOW TO

Chill a punch cup in the freezer at least ten minutes.
In an electric blender, add:
1 whole egg
Blend on high one minute, then add (while blending):
1/4 cup white sugar
Continue blending to mix, then add (while blending):
3 oz whole milk
2 oz heavy cream
2 oz bourbon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Blend to mix, then pour into the chilled glass. Return filled glass to the freezer a few minutes to chill further. Top with additional freshly grated nutmeg.

This also work batched ahead of time in whatever volume you want and stored in the refrigerator – it’ll keep for months. All the way until next Christmas, believe it or not. Aging is perfectly safe and mellows the flavors, boosts sweetness, and makes the texture even more velvety.

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