Punch is a win-win, both for amenable groups of friends who can agree on their cocktail order and for restaurants and bars that can batch it ahead of time for easy service. Bowls are always in style, but now they are joined by a host of other vessels including carafes and pitchers for crowd-pleasing drinks that lend convivial flair.
“People like to share things,” says Stefan Trummer, co-owner/mixologist at Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, VA. “It always is more fun when you just put a big platter of food or a big cocktail bowl in the middle of the table for everyone…[plus] you don’t have to wait for refills.”
The 210-seat New American cuisine restaurant has a selection of three rotating punches that change with the seasons. Current offerings include Strawberry Field, which combines vodka with strawberry, fennel and burnt absinthe; Peach Cobbler, with bourbon, grilled peaches, lemon, vanilla and peach bitters; and a Scorpion bowl with tequila, passion fruit, star anise and lemongrass.
The punch drinks appear on the Community Cocktails section of Trummer’s on Main’s menu. Guests can order a small punch, 10 to 15 servings, priced from $85 to $125, or large, with 20 to 30 servings ($135 to $195).
“I personally love making batched cocktails, and believe that they can be better than individually made drinks,” says Trummer. “Like how some dishes taste better if you make a large batch than only a couple of portions.”
Trummer says that using fresh fruits and herbs allows for intense flavors and a balanced mouthfeel to develop as the ingredients steep in the bowl.
The aptly named Punch House in Chicago offers about 12 types of both classic and contemporary punches. The 86-seat, vintage-themed bar includes the large-format drinks in its beverage program for flavor as well as efficiency.
“We knew that a beverage identity that calls for batching by design would allow us to provide great drinks with an uncommon speed of service for the craft cocktail world,” explains founder William Duncan.
Punches are priced at $8 per glass, $32 a carafe (four servings) and $59 a bowl (eight servings). Duncan cites Space Juice as the most popular from the contemporary side of the menu. It mixes tequila with grapefruit, Luxardo Bitter, black pepper and sage, topped with sparkling wine.
“The appeal and popularity ties to the surprisingly perfect pairing of grapefruit and sage,” Duncan says. “Sweet, tart and savory flavors mingle for a pleasing complexity.”
On the classic side, Quoit Punch is named for the old-fashioned lawn game. It combines Jamaican rum, Cognac, Madeira, lemon, sugar and water. “The Madeira in the recipe provides a curious raisin character,” he notes.
Servers present the punches in vintage glass and ceramic bowls, with the exception of the Champagne punch, which is delivered via a beverage cart and prepared tableside. The classic recipe of Hennessy Cognac, Curacao, Jamaican rum, black tea, lemon, Angostura bitters and Piper Champagne is $225 for six servings. “It’s the tableside guacamole of the bar world!” says Duncan
Punch and Games
A sure sign that classic punch has gone mainstream, Punch Bowl Social just opened its sixth location. The new restaurant, in Schaumburg, IL, joins locations in Portland, OR; Denver; Austin, Detroit and Cleveland.
The concept combines food and beverage with socializing and gaming. Locations boast old-school games, bowling, shuffleboard, private karaoke, a gastro diner and an ambitious craft cocktail program
The menu at the Portland Punch Bowl Social, for example, offers four punches, which range from $7 to $8 per serving; $25 to $32 for four servings; and $48 to $64 for eight servings. Options include Bachelor’s Bowl, with Old Forester bourbon, Pimm’s blackberry elderflower liqueur and pineapple; and Lord Stanley’s Cup, with Rumhaven coconut rum, Bacardi 8-year-old rum, McClary Bros. pineapple fennel seed shrub, white pear fuji apple tea and lime.
“We want our guests to enjoy a cocktail as a group,” says beverage director Patrick Williams. “We have a very fun social atmosphere, and punch bowls bring the group together.”
Punches also allow for efficiency and consistency, allowing bartenders to spend more time interacting with guests and less time measuring and mixing.