Simple Punch Recipes

When you think about punch, the first thing that may come to mind is the memory of ladling this sweet, often colorful drink into punch cups at your high school dances. But even though these simple punch recipes are easy to make, punch itself is a complex drink with a rich history that extends as far back as the 16th century.

Origins of Punch
Punch is commonly believed to originate from the Indian word "panch," which means five and refers to the five components that make up the drink. Traditionally, these five components are the ingredients: arrack (fermented palm sap), tea, sugar, lemon and water. Yet other sources define the five components as ingredients that reflect a combination of elements: sweet, sour, bitter, weak and alcoholic.

Does punch truly originate from India or do the legends of British sailors drinking this intoxicating beverage out of 72-gallon puncheons at sea hold the real key? We may never know. But one thing we do know is that punch, whether served iced or hot or with or without alcohol, has become a favorite refreshment at parties in the United States and the variations on the theme are only as limited as your imagination.

Punch Drinks
Today, punch generally includes the following ingredients:

  • Carbonation in the form of citrus-flavored sodas, soda water, ginger ale or champagne
  • Fresh fruit juices, particularly lime and other citrus
  • Fresh fruit
  • Alcohol, particularly rum or vodka (optional)

These kinds of fruit punch are served in a punch bowl, over ice or an ice mold and ladled into punch cups.

You're not limited to iced punches, however. Punch can also be served hot, using tea as its base in place of carbonation. The basic ingredients for hot punch are:

  • Hot tea
  • Sugar
  • Spices like cloves, cinnamon, anise, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger
  • Ciders or unsweetened fruit juices
  • Alcohol, particularly whiskey, rum and flavored schnapps (optional)

Making Punch
Once you know the basic formula for making iced or hot punch, you can begin experimenting with your favorite flavors and ingredients to create your own punch recipes. Fruit punch can include any number or combination of fruits, while lime punch will focus on highlighting the tangy notes of this citrus fruit. If you want tropical punch, use fruit juices and fruits like pineapple, mango and papaya.

For hot punches, use plain teas rather than flavored teas and infuse them with mulling and other spices before mixing with ciders and juices. Use plain sugars (white, brown and raw) or scented sugars (vanilla or lavender, for example) depending upon the flavor you're looking to achieve.

The fresher your ingredients, the better your punch will be. Ideally, you'll want to select and squeeze your own fruit juices, but if you're short on time look for the freshest products you can find at your local supermarket or farmer's market.

While alcohol is a traditional component of punches, it's always optional.

Party Punch Variations
Ice Cream Punch. Turn a simple punch into something rich and creamy by adding ice cream or sherbet. Whether you choose to add the ice cream or sherbet before or after you pour the punch into the bowl, cut it into small blocks or add it scoop by scoop to ensure guests can take some if they wish. Scoops added after the punch has been poured will float in the punch, adding an additional visual element to the presentation. It's best to add the ice cream just before guests arrive so it doesn't melt all the way through.

Mild Punches.  Any punch can pack a wallop if you use the right blend of bold, spicy or tangy ingredients. You can please milder palates by serving punch that relies more on milk, tea, coffee or hot chocolate versus fruit juices. Generally, these punches are served hot, but their soothing qualities make them a good choice for almost any event. Better yet, you don't need to wait for a party to enjoy these. Simply adjust your ingredients down to make one or two servings.

To make a hot tea punch for one, gather together the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of your favorite hot tea
  • ½ cup of ginger ale
  • 1 slice of lemon
  • Sugar cubes (plain or soaked in rum or fresh lemon juice)

After you've brewed your tea, pour it into a small saucepan along with the ginger ale over medium-low heat. Do not allow the mixture to reach a boil. When the mixture has reached your desired temperature, pour into mugs and add the lemon. Add a splash of rum (optional) or dash of flavored syrup to taste.

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