Beyond the Bowl
Punch bowls are fun, but some operators are opting for more whimsical vessels for their large-format drinks, from oversized Martini glasses to French coffee presses.
At Yvonne’s, a modern supper club in Boston, the Large Format menu (priced at $95 each) offers up drinks such as a Moscow Mule served in a giant copper mug. The Crack Krakatak, named for the nut in Alexandre Dumas’s The Tale of the Nutcracker, combines El Dorado and Privateer rums with Calvados, burnt cinnamon, lemon, Lapsang souchong tea and Champagne, served in a giant crystal glass.
Bottlefork, an 80-seat New American bar and kitchen in Chicago, also serves cocktails in supersized glasses. The Blonde on Blonde ($26) mixes Absolut Elyx vodka, white port, Smith & Cross rum, Champagne, oleo saccharum and chile de arbol and is served in a large copper pineapple; Brandy & Cigars ($30) has Germain Robin brandy, creme de cacao a la vanille, Cocchi Barolo Chinato and smoke from a Honduran Robusto cigar, served in a large snifter.
The Bill Brasky ($35) is presented in an oversized footed rocks glass and was inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch with a character of the same name. “In it, the weathered, rosy-cheeked salesmen can be seen drinking brown liquid from glasses the size of small vases,” explains chef and partner Kevin Hickey. “We created a cocktail that was all whiskies, rye, bourbon, scotch and white whiskey, combined with a little vermouth and bitters, plus the aftershave Brasky used to woo your wife,” in a nod to the sketch, Hickey says.
Kamin says that sometimes these drinks are shared among several patrons, but more often than not, they are consumed by one thirsty tippler. Bottlefork limits sales of the supersized sips to one per customer.
Perfecting Your Punch
Oleo saccharum, a blend of citrus oils and sugar, was the basis for all historic punch—and remains the base for the punches at Punch House. “Sugar pulls the essential oils from citrus peels, adding nuance and aroma to your final product,” Duncan explains. “It’s a subtle yet essential component of our punch-making techniques.”
Equally important, he says, is letting punch rest after batching it, which allows for the integration and development of flavors.
Another practice for punch drinks is the art of forced carbonation and custom draft dispensing. This won’t make the drinks any better, Duncan says, but it’s an efficient and overall preferred way to serve draft cocktails.
When creating a batched version of a cocktail, Williams suggesting making a single serving of it first, then scaling the recipe to see if any nuances from the ingredients are lost. Spicy ingredients should be avoided, he says, as their heat tends to be exacerbated in larger quantities.
“Also, test the drink when it becomes a little more diluted,” Williams suggests. “Your guests won’t—and shouldn’t—consume the drink as fast as a normal cocktail, so see how it lasts in the bowl with ice.”
Speaking of ice, Trummer believes it’s the most important ingredient in a batched cocktail. “Not enough ice will result in a watered down drink,” he says.
Ample ice—in the form of ice molds, blocks or large cubes—will melt more slowly, keeping drinks just as flavorful from beginning to end, Trummer says. Adding citrus wheels, fresh herbs and other garnish to the ice mold it even more aesthetically pleasing, and adds some punch to your punch.
Hard Pressed for a Cocktail
Provision No. 14 in Washington, D.C. thinks outside the bowl (and pitcher) with its menu of French Press Cocktails. “The inspiration was to offer guests the ability to indulge in a highly drinkable and delicious cocktail that they can interact with at their table,” says bartender Chad Spangler.
Hard Rock Café, the music-themed dining chain based in Orlando, FL, was among the first to use a French press with cocktails in 2014.
Spangler has found that drinks that are not too sweet or strong—as well as those that don’t need to be aerated—work best in a press. A Daiquiri, for instance, “needs to be shaken hard to get the right texture, and wouldn’t work well in a press-style cocktail.”
Since these drinks aren’t shaken with ice, they need to have water added to them ahead of time to achieve the right amount of dilution and balance. The pressed drinks are priced at $38 each for 34 oz. (four to five servings).
Current offerings include Ticket to Ride, with Bombay Sapphire gin, grapefruit, dehydrated pineapple and chamomile, and Grapefruit Press, with Stoli vodka, grapefruit and mint.
During brunch, Provision No. 14 also offers a Basil Lavender Mimosa. All of the French Press drinks are presented tableside, and the plunger is pushed down to “press” and meld the ingredients—which adds to both the novelty and the flavor.
“The drink must taste good to begin with, and then taste even better when some fun garnishes are added to infuse into the cocktail as it sits on the table,” says Spangler.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer and wine educator in the Washington, D.C. area.