The Edison, Los Angeles, CA (2008)

There’s been a bit of a resurgence in punch these last couple years, led by two fronts. One is from craft bartenders wanting to make sure everyone in a crowded bar gets a quick drink when the line starts backing up. The other is David Wondrich, booze historian, and his fascinating book “Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.” And for good reason: one of the simplest ways to make sure a large party is sufficiently quenched is with a big bowl of punch. Sure, it’s a bit of work upfront that you’ll need to plan far ahead for, but it frees you – the host – to kick back a bit when your guests arrive. They’ll serve themselves and gather around the punch bowl just like in Colonial times. Nice how some things never change!

This particular recipe comes from The Edison in Downtown Los Angeles. Of all the punch recipes I’ve tried recently, this one knocks the rest to the mat with one tap. Delicious, just strong enough, and perfectly balanced. Plus, you’ll pick up a fancy new word to bandy about: “oleosaccharum.” This is another place to use that batch of homemade grenadine you made – please don’t use that fake toxic-red shit.

Look for glass punch bowl sets at thrift stores or estate sales. You’ll find fantastic-looking vintage pieces, sometimes even complete sets with a dozen or more punch cups, edge hooks, and a ladle. I regularly see them in my area for under $20.

To maintain dilution when you serve your punch, you’ll want to hand-fashion a large block of ice instead of using ice cubes, which would melt too quickly…

Easy Ice: Find a freezer-safe bowl that fits well inside your punch bowl, with plenty of room for ladling around the edges. Fill the bowl with water and let freeze overnight. When ready, take the ice out, invert the bowl on the counter, and let it drop out (takes a few minutes).

Not-So-Easy (But Really Freaking Awesome) Ice: Fill a small Igloo lunch cooler with water and let freeze 36 hours. When frozen through, invert the cooler in the sink and let it thaw a bit, then slide out. It’ll take some time – but don’t worry, it’ll announce itself when it drops. You won’t miss it. Wearing protective gloves and using a bread knife, carefully carve away the slush and cloudiness at the bottom of the block to reveal a huge hunk of crystal-clear beauty. Round the corners by sawing and hacking, then shape the block to fit your punch bowl. When finished, you can store the block in a gallon Ziploc in your freezer until needed.

THE KIT

Hardware: Measuring cups & spoons, Muddler, Strainer, Slotted spoon
Ice: Ice block
Glassware: Punch bowl & punch cups (with ladle)
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Wild Turkey 81, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Lemon oleosaccharum, Grenadine, Champagne
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Angostura bitters

HOW TO

OLEOSACCHARUM
Peel from end to end, avoiding the bitter white pith:
6 lemons

Reserve peeled lemons for juicing. In the punch bowl, combine peels with:
10 tablespoons superfine sugar (not Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar – run regular white sugar through a dry electric blender if you can’t get superfine)

Muddle well to abrade lemon peel and begin expressing zest oils into the sugar. Stir to combine and let sit at least one hour, stirring occasionally. It’s done when the sugar is no longer gritty and the lemon syrup is smooth and fragrant.

PUNCH
To the oleosaccharum in the punch bowl, add:
4 cups bourbon whiskey (works out to an entire 750 ml bottle plus more)
2 cups lemon juice (strained well to remove pulp and small seeds)
1 cup grenadine
8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 cups cold water

Stir to blend, then using a hand-held strainer or slotted spoon, remove the lemon peels, making sure they don’t bring any of that oleosaccharum with them. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Just before your guests arrive, add the ice block and:

1 1/2 cups Champagne (about a quarter of a 750 ml bottle)

Stir to blend and then relax. You’re done.

MAKES 20 SERVINGS

Ritz Bar, Paris, France (1920s)

The American craft of the cocktail hit what many consider its “Golden Age” in the years just before Prohibition. Wouldn’t you know it? Right when things were getting interesting, the squares come along and blow the party – forcing the really great bartenders overseas to places like the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London and The Ritz Hotel Bar in Paris. This drink comes from the Ritz and was one in a family of “Corpse Reviver” drinks intended as hangover cures: easy on the palate, a little sweet, simple to mix. The original Kina Lillet in this recipe is no longer available – substitute Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano for a close-enough approximation. Or, if you can find it, try the excellent Tempus Fugit Kina l’Avion d’Or. Corpse Reviver #2 is a reliably successful (and gentle) arm-twister for those friends of your who say they hate gin – serve one of these and watch their eyes light up.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: London Dry gin (recommended: Beefeater, Tanqueray)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Triple sec (recommended: Cointreau, Combier), Kina (recommended: Kina L’Avion D’Or, Lillet Blanc, Cocchi Americano), Herbsaint
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Cherry (recommended: Luxardo, Filthy)

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

3/4 oz London Dry gin
3/4 oz triple sec
3/4 oz kina
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/8 oz Herbsaint

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with a cherry pierced on a cocktail pick.

Detroit Athletic Club, 1920s

The drink that launched a thousand knockoffs: The Last Word. Four equal parts heavy-hitters, no garnish. Written up by Ted Saucier in “Bottoms Up.” Revived by Murray Stenson in Seattle a few years ago. And now, endlessly pillaged as a source of inspiration by bartenders around the country. Try your hand at a spin sometime: Chartreuse, maraschino, and citrus seem to be the only constants (Chartreuse is one of the priciest liqueurs out there – look for smaller, 375 mL bottles). Three variations listed below.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Gin (recommended: Beefeater, Plymouth, Tanqueray)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
3/4 oz London Dry gin
3/4 oz green Chartreuse
3/4 
oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lime juice 

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass.

LA OTRA PALABRA

otherwordThe Varnish, Los Angeles, 2010

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Barspoon
Ice: Ice cubes, Ice chunk
Glassware:
 Double Old Fashioned glass
Spirits: Mezcal (recommended: Del Maguey Vida)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Yellow Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo), Agave nectar
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice

HOW TO

Chill a double Old Fashioned in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
2 oz mezcal
1 
oz lime juice
1/4 oz yellow Chartreuse
1/4 
oz agave nectar
1 barspoon maraschino liqueur

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass over a large ice chunk or two to three ice cubes.

WORDSMITH

Chuck Taggart, Los Angeles, 2009

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Smith & Cross pot-still rum
Mixers & Liqueurs: Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
3/4 oz Smith & Cross pot-still rum
3/4 oz green Chartreuse
3/4 
oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lime juice 

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass.

THE FINAL WARD

Death & Co., New York, 2007

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Rye whiskey (recommended: Rittenhouse)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
3/4 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz green Chartreuse
3/4 
oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lemon juice 

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass.