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southern bourbon punch
Food and Wine

Cocktails for a Crowd: Southern Bourbon Punch

Southern bourbon punch: it’s not your grandma’s frozen lemonade, sherbet and lime soda pop shower staple, that’s for sure! If you’re entertaining a group and looking for a special cocktail, this spirited punch is an easy option for a crowd.

Retro punch bowl service is enjoying a moment. Inspired by beverage presentation going back to the days of 16th century wassail, trendy bars and restaurant lounges today are offering multi-serving drinks punch bowl-style, often in antique bowls. Cutting edge offerings are essentially creative cocktails made with fine spirits enhanced with fresh fruits and juices; and syrups, bitters and tinctures, often house made or locally-sourced. In the American South, that’s bourbon punch made with sweet tea and citrus, showcasing premium locally-distilled hooch. It’s a beverage option that makes sense for parties, especially if you don’t have a bartender on hand to make drinks one-by-one.

A punch drink serving is 5-ounce size. An 0ld-school punch bowl holds 24-30 such drinks. If Grandma’s bowl’s not handy, use pitchers to serve. No punch cups? Lowball cocktail glasses will do. Southern bourbon punch is only as good as its ingredients; use a premium bourbon brand (such as Maker’s Mark) , fresh lemon and orange, freshly-grated nutmeg.

And, one more note: an added advantage to a punch-style beverage: you can tweak the alcohol level (and even discreetly serve a non-alcohol version) to suit your crew.

Special Occasion Cocktails: Fancy Bourbon Punch

1 liter (approximately 4 and 1/4 cups) good quality bourbon whiskey, such as Maker’s Mark® brand.

1 cup granulated sugar

Peels of 3 lemons and 1 orange

Juice of peeled fruit

1 liter (approximately 4 and 1/4 cups) of strong tea, preferably green tea

250 ml (approximately 1 cup) champagne or club soda

Freshly grated nutmeg or sliced citrus fruit for garnish

Combine sugar and citrus peels in the bottom of a punch bowl. Muddle together until sugar starts to clump together. Let sit for about 2 hours, (while not necessary, this does add a little complexity). Brew the tea for about 30 minutes, remove loose tea or tea bags and allow to cool. Add the juice of the peeled fruit, tea and bourbon. Stir. Top with champagne just before serving and stir gently. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and serve. Serves: approximately 24.

Adapted from recipe by mixologist Matt Wallace of Maker’s Mark. 

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