Let’s Talk Punches

Summertime: Cocktail Punches
Photo: Shutterstock/ Africa Studio


ow that summer is in full swing, along with that comes party season. What better way to quench the thirst of the masses than with a delicious and refreshing punch?

This drink goes back all the way to the early 17th century when it was brought to England from India by sailors and employees of the British East India Company. Sailors were accomplished drinkers who mainly drank beer, but as they sailed to the warmer climates of India, the beer would become rancid. So they made due with what was available locally, which was rum, citrus, and spices. The drink soon became a staple at parties, spread all over Europe, and   eventually even reached as far as the American Colonies. 

Massive punch bowls were used at gatherings during the summer months. Wide, deep, and usually with a ladle, the punch bowl has been a part of households since the 1600’s. While the popularity of punch has gone up and down over the years, it will always be welcome at our home and bars.

This past June, we had the honor of being the keynote speakers at the CraveRI event, which is held every year in Providence, RI. It is a huge event where restaurants, bars, farms, and people all gather together to celebrate what makes our state great.

When we were deciding what cocktails we would feature, an obvious choice was to make a punch. I always like to challenge people to come out of their comfort zone a bit, and so we decided to go with a gin-based punch, which would give people an entryway into gin and would make it much more palatable for them.

We infused the gin with some passionfruit tea, added some lemon juice, a rich basil simple syrup, Aperol (an Italian bitter liqueur made from an infusion of selected herbs and roots), as well as a locally made sparkling white wine similar  to Prosecco. 

The results were everything that we had hoped for, and they ticked off all of the boxes of a classic punch recipe. Those components are strong, weak, sour, sweet, and bitter.

The strong in this case would be the passionfruit tea-infused gin.
The weak is the Aperol, which also helps cover the bitter. Sour is from the fresh-pressed lemon juice. The sweetness comes from the rich
basil simple syrup and sparkling
white wine. 

The feedback that we received was tremendous. People who swore they would never drink gin were asking for the recipe and technique so that they could make it at home or for their next party. Also, people who were gin drinkers were able to appreciate the subtle flavors of the punch. Check out our recipe for yourself on the next page, which will fill one standard size punch bowl.

To give you options, we figured we should also bring in some experts in the art of punch making, and there is no better place to go to than our friends over at Punch House in Chicago, Illinois. Located in the basement of historic Thalia Hall on W. 18th Street, they have been cranking out rifts on classic punches for some time now. Founder Will Duncan definitely has his staff focused on the five tenants of a good punch, and they skillfully incorporate each of those elements into the venue’s cocktail menu. Punch House has a mid-century modern, wood-paneled aesthetic that is accented by retro pendant lamps and furniture out of a 1960’s finished basement. 

Will was kind enough to send us over one of his favorite punch recipes currently being featured on their menu. Space Juice is a delightful blend of Blanco Tequila, Luxardo bitter liqueur, sparkling wine, black pepper tea, fresh grapefruit juice, and sage for an aromatic garnish. This recipe was influenced by some of the opening staff of Punch House and refined and mastered by Will.

Punch House will usually make this punch on a very large scale for hundreds of patrons at a time, but to make it at home for you and some friends, grab a punch bowl and follow their recipe guide.

Photo: Shutterstock/ nd3000.

Phil Gendreau & Jeff Mikolazyk own and operate Seed & Sip, a farm-to-glass mobile bartending company based out of Rhode Island. They have operated and created cocktail menus for bars and restaurants in Providence, Boston, and Cape Cod. Seed & Sip is now their focus, and they use locally sourced ingredients from New England farms to create juices, syrups, and infusions for specialty cocktails. While using local breweries, wineries, and distilleries, they try to bring the freshest approach to any type of event. Follow them on Instagram              @seedandsip. For inquiries, visit seedandsip.com or email them at [email protected].

Gin Punch

1 750ml bottle of

passionfruit-infused gin

8 oz rich basil simple

8 oz lemon juice

5 oz of Aperol

1 bottle sparkling white wine

or Prosecco

To infuse the gin, take one bottle of gin, pour into a 32-ounce mason jar, and put in three bags of passionfruit tea. Let infuse for one to three hours. I like to taste every hour until I get the desired flavor. Remove tea bags after infusion is done. For the rich basil simple syrup (1 quart), put 18 ounces of sugar in a saucepan and top with 12 ounces of water. Stir over medium heat until sugar has melted being careful not to let the pan come to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add five or six basil leaves. Let steep for two hours. Strain out basil leaves. Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, stir to combine, and ice to chill punch.

Phil Gendreau & Jeff Mikolazyk

Space Juice

10 lemons

3 oz sugar

Black pepper tea

8 oz tequila

4 oz Luxardo Bitter

1 bottle sparkling wine

2 cups grapefruit juice

Peel the rinds from four lemons and combine with 3 ounces of sugar in a punch bowl, muddle together, and set aside. (This is the build of a classic oleo saccharum, which is putting citrus fruit rinds into sugar. It pulls the oils from the rinds, giving a rich flavor to the sugar.) To make the black pepper tea, combine 4 ounces of hot water with 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns. Steep for 15 minutes. Combine tea with the oleo saccharum and the juice of six limes (fine strain the lime juice to remove pulp). Add the tequila, Luxardo, sparkling wine, and grapefruit juice. Whisk together and ice to chill punch. Garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Will Duncan, Punch House, Chicago

Interested in more content like this? Click here for a free subscription to our monthly magazine.