Pack Classic Punch for Alternative Holiday Cocktail

PLEASED AS PUNCH: The holiday potable is a refreshing alternative to the usual cocktails
Photographs by Martin Vecchio

As A-listers know, December’s social whirl can lead to cocktail fatigue. Serving a version of a classic punch can be a welcome alternative to the usual signature drinks, wine, and beer — not to mention a reprieve for the party hosts who’d rather not be stuck playing bartender. There’s the added benefit that punch bowls (vintage or new) look festive.

Punch, which dates to the 1700s, traditionally includes liquor, tea, sugar, spices, and citrus. The following punch recipes come with their own twists. They also have a lower alcohol content per serving, ensuring safer imbibing. Serving one alcohol-free punch is another option.

The Oakland Art Novelty Company

ABOVE: Sandy Levine, owner of The Oakland Art Novelty Company in Ferndale, concocts a Rock & Rye punch. In addition to rye and dark rum, it’s made with rock candy, cloves, cinnamon, and orange and lemon peels. It’s important to remove the bitter pith from the peels.


(Serves 12)

While not technically a punch, this classic recipe has been one of the few drinks on our menu since opening in July 2011. It’s what inspired Faygo to make a non-alcoholic version during the 1920s, and became their signature soda (although it tastes quite different with the rye-whiskey base).

One bottle (750 ml) of higher-proof rye whiskey (We use Bulleit Rye.)
2 ounces dark rum (We use Pampero Aniversario.)
1/2 cup old-style rock candy (We get ours from the Woodward Avenue Candy Shop.)
1 dozen whole cloves
1 orange (peel and segments with pith removed*)
1 lemon (peel and segments with pith removed*)
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a large airtight jar and let sit for two weeks. Strain out solids (rock candy will have dissolved) and serve hot or cold.

*Carefully peel the rind off the orange and lemon, making sure not to include any of the white pith, which causes bitterness. Remove any white pith from both the peels and the orange/lemon.

Source: The Oakland Art Novelty Company, Ferndale


(Makes about 8 liters/7 servings per liter)

This recipe makes quite a bit of punch, but the beauty is that it can be bottled and stored in a refrigerator almost indefinitely (a good year or so), as long as all solids are removed. The bottles can be given to friends and relatives for holiday gifts.

8 lemons
2 quarts whole milk
2 pounds sugar
3-1/2 quarts water
1 gallon good-quality brandy or cognac (We recommend Louis Royer Force 53.)
2 whole nutmegs
Large coffee filters

Peel the lemons and infuse them for 24 hours at room temperature with the cognac. Add juice from all 8 lemons, the water, and sugar. Heat milk until it’s scalding (just before it begins to boil). Pour the hot milk into the mixture and stir (all of the milk will curdle). Grate 2 whole nutmegs into the mixture and let cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, or until all of the solids begin settling at the bottom. Pour the entire mixture through a funnel fitted with a large coffee filter (this should be done in several small batches to ensure no solids remain). Bottle and store in refrigerator.

Source: The Oakland Art Novelty Company, Ferndale


The Sugar House

ABOVE: Dave Kwiatkowski, owner of The Sugar House in Detroit’s Corktown, mixes a Root Beer Egg Nog punch made with eggs, Art in the Age Root liqueur, Cruzan Black Strap rum, milk, simple syrup, and garnished with freshly grated nutmeg. It stays chilled with a large block of ice.


(Serves 12)

12 eggs, yolks separated
12 ounces Art in the Age Root liqueur
12 ounces Cruzan Black Strap rum
32 ounces whole milk
8* ounces simple syrup
Whole nutmeg

Combine egg yolks, *6 ounces of the simple syrup, milk, and liquors in a punch bowl and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining *2 ounces of the simple syrup until very frothy, but not firm. Add a large block of ice to the first mixture and spoon the egg white mixture on top of the punch. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Source: The Sugar House, Corktown Detroit



(Serves 16)

40 ounces fresh-pressed apple juice*
16 ounces Amontillado Sherry*
16 ounces Gold Rum (Brugal Anejo or Cruzan Gold is nice here)
8 ounces lemon juice*
4 ounces simple syrup
Whole nutmeg

Combine everything in a large bowl over ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

*If you don’t have a juicer, go to a health-food store to have it freshly pressed. Don’t use anything that comes from the grocery-store shelf. (If you have to substitute apple cider, it would be a different punch, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.)
*Use a decent Amontillado, and nothing that the merchant refers to as a “cooking sherry.”
*Lemon juice should be fresh squeezed and strained of pulp and seeds. Please, please don’t use that lemon stuff they sell in a bottle at the store.

Source: The Sugar House, Corktown Detroit



(Serves 12)

750 ml Beefeater or Bombay gin
12 ounces ginger syrup*
50 ounces mint tea*
12 ounces lemon juice*
Fresh mint tips

Combine everything in a punch bowl, add a large block of ice, and garnish with mint tips.

*The intensity of the ginger syrup is important to this punch. We juice ginger root using a Universal juicer. If that isn’t available, most health-food stores sell fresh ginger juice. Make sure it’s 100-percent juice. Then, add equal parts sugar to the ginger juice, and stir over very low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
*Fresh mint sprigs in a large jar of water sitting on a sunny ledge is our preferred method for making mint tea. But a quality mint tea is fine.
*Lemon juice should be fresh squeezed and strained of pulp and seeds. Please don’t use that lemon stuff they sell in a bottle at the store.

Source: The Sugar House, Corktown Detroit