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Pulling your punches




First of all, I’d have put this in last week’s column about throwing parties if I’d had the room, but since you probably still need something, or several somethings, good for guests to drink at your soirees this coming season, I decided to make a whole separate entry for it.

In my family there’s at least one hefty crystal punchbowl, which got its most regular use on Christmas Eve when we drank green punch from it out of matching crystal cups. As nobody took alcohol in my family, it was mostly sweet with no, um, punch to it. It also held different types of punch for wedding and baby showers, and the occasional church group New Year’s party.

(As an aside, my grandmother inherited beautiful crystal booze decanters, and liked the look of them, but not their purpose. Each Easter she filled them with water and added a little food coloring in each of the four decanters, each with one of the four types of food coloring available back then. I pass this along because if you have similar containers but don’t imbibe, putting holiday-appropriate tinted water in them is a clever way to show off your nice things.)

As I got older I learned that punch is great stuff, both the non-alcoholic kind and the version that’ll have you singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ on your neighbor’s roof in April. Of course you can set up a bar for individual cocktails, or leave out big bottles of soda for self-pours, but there’s something formal and elegant about even kiddie drinks served from a punchbowl; it really does raise the tone of things. If you have a party full of nothing but adults who tipple, you can go straight to the alcoholic punches, but if you have kids or avowed nondrinkers or designated drivers in the mix, it’s a good idea to have some of both.

Most of these recipes can be tweaked by adding the liquor of your choice, although they’re good without it, but if you do add alcohol, it’s a good idea to set up a punchbowl for the boozy stuff at one end of the party and another for the non-alcoholic type at the other, so nobody gets confused.

Faux Champagne

Courtesy of the book, “Somebody Is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn’t Catch That Bouquet” by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays.

½ cup sugar

1 cup water

1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate

1 6-oz. can frozen grapefruit juice concentrate

28 oz. cold ginger ale

½ cup grenadine syrup

Bring sugar and water to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and when cool add the juice concentrates. Chill in the refrigerator until very cold. When ready to serve, put in the punchbowl and add the ginger ale and grenadine.


Adapted slightly from Anna Thomas’s “The Vegetarian Epicure.”

12 eggs, separated

1½ cups powdered sugar

1 qt. whole milk, preferably organic

1 large orange

1 lemon

1 qt. heavy whipping cream

grated nutmeg for sprinkling

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick, then stir in the milk. Beat the egg whites in another bowl (clean the beater first; egg whites won’t froth up if even a trace of fat gets in them) until they just hold a peak, and then fold them into the yolk mixture. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When you’re about ready to put it all together, zest the orange and lemon. Whip the cream until it thickens and just holds a peak, but no more. Stir into cold milk and egg mixture, and beat a few more strokes with the whisk. Stir in all the lemon zest and half the orange zest. Pour into a punchbowl and sprinkle with the remaining orange zest and as much nutmeg as you like. Personally I don’t see why you can’t put nutmeg in the punch itself, or skip either or both of the zests if you like. For the alcoholic version, Thomas recommends 1 cup cognac and 1 cup rum; I’d say brandy or whiskey, or any combination of the above, should be fine.

Osceola Coffee Punch

From “Gourmet of the Delta” by way of Metcalfe and Hays’ book again. This is nice if you have people making the rounds who need to stay perky, or your friends like foofy coffee drinks. If a lot of people end up crashing at your place, this would be a nice thing to serve for a group breakfast along with a quiche or brunch casserole made ahead of time. (I’ve never figured out what “homestyle” ice cream is, but I think it’s the extra creamy, double-churned kind.)

1 cup milk

1 small 2-oz. jar instant coffee

2 qts. vanilla ice cream, softened

2 qts. chocolate ice cream, softened

1 pt. homestyle vanilla ice cream, softened

1 pt. heavy cream, whipped

chocolate sauce (Hershey’s syrup is fine)


Bring the milk to a boil and add the coffee. Stir until dissolved and cool completely. Blend the milk mixture with the ice cream, pour into punchbowl, and chill in the freezer. When ready to serve, float scoops of homestyle ice cream on top. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Lime Sherbet Punch

Well, this is the classic. When we had this for Christmas, High’s Ice Cream was still in business and made a frozen base for it that was about perfect. Nowadays you have to do it all yourself, but luckily, it’s easy.

2 qts. lime sherbet, slightly softened

46 oz. pineapple juice

2 2-liter bottles of ginger ale (conversely, I’ve heard to use clear lemon-lime cola; I say use whichever you like or even mix them if it suits you).

Scoop sherbet into your punchbowl and carefully add the juice and soda. Floating some maraschino cherries and possibly cross-sections of lemon and lime on top is a festive touch.

Remember that when you decide to make a toast, it’s considered good form to have everyone there. Should some of the guests be missing, try to round them up. If you served at least one bowl with alcohol mixed in, I’d start by looking on the roof.



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