The craft cocktail world is embracing — and elevating — the once-juvenile punch bowl. Here’s why you should, too
Punch is making a comeback, and just in time for the holidays.
ABUSTLING HOLIDAY PARTY is no time to play bartender. Instead, mix one drink in bulk and put it in your biggest bowl next to a ladle and some cups. There’s a name for this concoction: punch. But to make sure yours is more than just a scapegoat for everyone’s hangovers, follow the lead of a new crop of bars serving communal cocktails that boast both potency and polish.
One industry shaker and stirrer drinking the alcoholic Kool-aid is Stuart Knapman, the bar manager at The Cloak in Toronto. While he admits that punch “lost its way” when it became a trademark of rowdy student parties, he posits that it actually has far more sophisticated origins. Dating back to 16th-century India, punch is thought to get its name from the Sanskrit word for five, a reference to its five key elements: alcohol, sugar, citrus, water, and spices. If executed correctly, this balance of flavours gives the brew broad appeal.
Another benefit of punch’s communal nature: it becomes a shared experience. As Knapman points out, that helps everyone to bond, “especially at a party of distant relatives or different friend groups.” He sees the drink’s unifying powers on display every time someone orders one of The Cloak’s punch bowls. “Every other table in the bar quickly says, ‘We want one of those, too.’” In other words: best to triple his recipe to anticipate demand.