1. Have the right equipment
Make sure you have a vessel that's big enough to hold the goods. And don't worry if you don't have a fancy dedicated punch bowl...just pull out the prettiest bowl you own. If you want to go more traditional but don't want to break the bank, take a look at your local thrift store.
Don't forget the ladle! Your guests will need something to serve themselves your delicious drink and you'll want to avoid the mess that comes with everyone dipping their cups into the bowl. Ladles can be found everywhere (check Target, the grocery store, or even your thrift store to find one that matches your new bowl).
2. Pick your spirit
Most mixologists recommend avoiding vodka. While it won't provide much flavor to your punch...it won't provide much flavor to your punch. Rum, sherry, tequila, and gin are traditional favorites. Or for a more festive twist, try something bubbly.
3. Make a base the night before
Mix 4 cups of water and one 12-ounce can of frozen juice concentrate. Add 1 cup of sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours.
Ideas for concentrate:
4. Day of the party: Mix your punch
Pour your base into your punch bowl and stir in ~2 1/2 cups of your favorite blend of juices. Some festive options: cranberry-orange, pomegranate, or cranberry-apple cider.
Add your bubbles. This could be sparkling wine, ginger ale, or orange soda.
Finish with your spirits and any other add-ins, like orange slices or bite-sized pieces of apple.
5. Keep your punch the correct temperature
If you're serving a cold punch, you'll need something to keep everything chilled without watering it down too quickly. Experts suggest using an ice ring. Fill a 10-inch tube pan or a bundt cake pan (silicone is even better) with some of your punch (sans alcohol) and freeze until solid. To make it even more festive, add fruit or mint leaves.
If you're serving a warm punch, toss the punch bowl and serve directly from the crockpot. Just make sure to either bring the punch to a simmer in a pot or begin heating it in the crockpot on low for an hour before your guests arrive.
6. Don't go too sweet!
Oftentimes, in an attempt to make punch tasty and not spirit-forward, they can turn out too sweet to handle. Make sure you have some bitter or tart flavors to balance out the sugar.
Another ratio to try for your punch mix:
2 parts non-alcoholic juice
2 parts booze
2 parts seltzer
10-15 dashes of bitters
So what are bitters exactly? They're flavor extracts meant to spice up cocktails with bitter, sour, or bittersweet tastes. Adding a few dashes can really take your drink to the next level.
7. Make it pretty
We eat and drink with our eyes first. You've spent time concocting this delicious treat, don't hide it in a red Solo Cup. Having clear cups will allow your guests to see your pretty punch and receive the maximum benefit of all your labor. And if your thrift-store crystal punch bowl didn't come with matching cups or you're using a bowl you already own, no worries. You can buy sleeves of elegant clear plastic cups that will do the trick and save time with clean-up.
Garnish!! Nothing makes a cocktail pop like a twist of lemon or an orange to hang from the edge of a glass. Make sure whatever you provide goes with the taste of your punch (i.e. no olives with your cranberry-orange sparkling punch, try toothpicks lined with fresh cranberries or a sprig of mint instead). These can be prepared the night before and added to each glass as your guests serve themselves.
8. Max out your bubbly potential
If you're adding sparkling wine or anything carbonated, don't add it until right before serving. Fizz only lasts about 2 hours.
9. Have backup
Nothing's worse than a party where the punch dries up too quickly. Have some reserve punch base, spirits, and garnish saved in the refrigerator to freshen the bowl as the night continues. This will provide more spirits for your guests, but will also help with any over-dilution as your ice ring melts and give you a change to invigorate any of the sparkle that may have gone flat.
10. Not sure where to start? Try one of these:
Holiday Eggnog Punch (Just add bourbon!)
SHARE with your friends, or keep for yourself as your entertaining secret weapon. Your friends will be begging you for your punch-making secrets.