When it comes to serving cocktails at holiday parties, you have two options: Spend the entire night shaking, stirring, juicing, and garnishing, and miss out on most of the fun—or make a bowl of punch, let guests serve themselves, and actually enjoy the night.
Easy choice, right?
“Whenever I host a party, everyone expects some cocktails. Pre-batching a large format cocktail means guests can serve themselves, and I can spend time hanging out, rather than preparing everyone’s drinks,” says Bryan Schneider, bartender at New York City’s Quality Eats.
Whisky is the ideal base spirit for this time of year, since the flavors from the barrel pair so well with winter spices, and, according to Schneider, “spice is essential for a perfect punch.”
The other essential: serving your drink at the perfect temperature. If your punch is designed to be served hot, keep it in a slow cooker on the low setting.
Chilled drinks are a bit more finicky, so follow the recipe. If it calls for adding water or ice cubes to your punch bowl, trust that you need those for proper dilution. “Since you won’t be shaking cocktails to order with ice, you need to dilute your punches before they are served,” Schneider says. “Punches are meant to last the long-haul of the party. You don’t want everyone tanked after the first glass.” Keep an ice bucket beside the punch bowl for guests to add to their own drinks when serving themselves.
Have a crowd coming over? Try one of these five festive punches.
Bourbon, Bubbly, and Tea
“This Fancy Bourbon Punch is kind of a hard thing to screw up, so feel free to experiment and have fun with it,” says Matt Wallace, mixologist and beverage director at Bar Tribute in Sherman Oaks, CA.
Scotch, Smoke, and (Lemon)grass
Bryan Schneider started with the name for the Smokin’ Grass cocktail on his menu at Quality Eats. “I knew I wanted to work in smoke and grass,” he says, allowing the recipe to come after.
Rye, Spice, and More Spice
Spiced demerara syrup and St. Elizabeth’s allspice liqueur add classic holiday flavors to a favorite warm cocktail in the Ultimate Hottie Toddy from Aaron Blakely, bartender at Yves in New York City.
Irish Whiskey, Peach, and Bubbles
“Redolent with ripe stone fruit notes and bright herbaceousness, this citrusy highball reminiscent of summer will keep a crowd smiling during a gathering,” says Joaquín Simó, beverage director and partner at New York City’s Pouring Ribbons.
Japanese Whisky, Honey, and Shiso
Arturo Cole, bartender at Monkitail at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, created the Honey Rush based off a cocktail his late grandfather used to make during the holidays in Venezuela. “It’s the perfect mix of spicy notes from the whisky, mellowed by the honey syrup, with herbal notes from the shiso,” he says.