The Retro Drink Everyone Loves

Punch might just be the ideal holiday party drink: It’s easy to prepare in  advance, serves a crowd so you can avoid stocking a full bar, and is retro chic.  Dig out your mother or grandmother’s bowl and cup set, follow these four simple  rules from Dan Searing, author of The Punch Bowl and  co-owner of the bar Room 11 in Washington, D.C.; and then try making Searing’s Cold Claret  Punch or Jamaican  Punch.
1. Keep It  Seasonal An iced tea-lemonade punch is terrific in July, but December  calls for ingredients such as citrus, apple brandy and warm baking spices like  cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. And now’s the time to serve heartier punches (think  ones that include egg nog).
2. Watch the  Booze One of the most common mistakes Searing sees is too-strong punch  (even if part of the drink’s appeal is its potency). Either follow a recipe to  make sure you don’t over-spike, or adhere to this rule of thumb: Each 5-ounce  serving (the standard size for the cups that accompany most bowls) should  contain about 1 and a half ounces of an 80-proof spirit (most vodka, gin,  whiskey and rum fall into this category).
3.  Save the Sweets for the Gingerbread House Searing says it helps to  think of sugar (or agave, or whatever you’re  using) in punch as salt in a  savory recipe: You need it,  but too much will ruin the finished product. Mix  all the ingredients together and add the sweetener last, and don’t use all of it  at once.  Add a little bit, then taste, and keep doing so until you think it’s  just  right–and maybe ask one other person’s opinion, to be sure.
4. Use Ice Wisely
Pouring a bag of ice cubes into a bowl of  punch is the fastest way to dilute the liquid. Instead, Searing says to prepare  your own ice  block by filling a Bundt or loaf pan, or a 2-quart paper milk or  juice  container with water (if using a carton, rinse well first). Freeze, and  when you’re ready to serve, run the pan under warm water to release the ice, or  peel off the paper carton. Have a second block in the freezer  if your party  will last more than 3 hours. If you don’t want to make a  block, serve the punch  without ice, and have an ice bucket nearby so guests can add as much as they  want.

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