While considering the perfect cocktail to make for a family birthday celebration at the beach, I had two requirements: It needed to serve more than 10 and I wanted a departure from the obvious margarita/sangria/daiquiri beach go-tos.
I flipped to a page in Fine Cooking's May issue featuring the story "Pleased as Punch," and found my recipe.
In case you've been living under a custom-cut ice block, punch is back in a big way. "Thanks to today’s history-obsessed mixologists, vintage punches are on the menu in some of the nation’s hippest cocktail dens, from San Francisco to Boston," writes the article's author St. John Frizell.
DC's craft bartenders have been hot on punch, as well. The fleeting underground Hummingbird to Mars greeted guests with cups of punch from a more than 300-year-old recipe. Warehouse Theater's Punch Club has dished out some classic concoctions, as has 14th Street's neo-speakeasy The Gibson. Poste is offering a punch menu in the garden, and you can find Todd Thrasher's Planter's Punch recipe here.
Our rented beach house had a perfectly massive glass bowl that screamed for punch, so I mixed up a batch of the St. Cecilia Society Punch from Fine Cooking. It was a delicious hit.
St. Cecilia Society Punch
adapted from Fine Cooking
3 lemons, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 Lipton or black tea bags
2 tbsp sliced ginger
1 1/2 cups dark rum, such as Gosling’s
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, sliced 1/2 inch thick, and cut into small wedges
2 bottles chilled dry sparkling wine (Fine Cooking recommends Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, and lo and behold, our beach Food Lion had just that.)
1-2 750 ml bottles sparkling water, chilled
freshly grated nutmeg
Put the lemon slices in a large bowl, pour the brandy over them and let sit a few hours at room temperature. (Fine Cooking recommends overnight, but sometimes things like punch parties just aren't that well planned out.)
Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags and ginger slices, and steep for 4 minutes. Remove tea bags and strain out ginger. Set syrup aside.
At least 3 hours and up to 6 hours before serving, combine the lemons, brandy, syrup, rum, and pineapple in a large pitcher or bowl. Chill.
Just before serving, pour the punch into a large chilled punch bowl with a block of ice. Add the sparkling wine and sparkling water, and stir. Optional: Grate a dusting of nutmeg over each glass. I love the aroma.