A punch bowl brings people together – it’s like a spiked version of the office water cooler, except much more fun and delicious. Over the brimming bowl, stories are shared, jokes cracked, songs belted, drinks sloshed, bonds formed and strengthened. The bonus: post-prep, the host is hands-off. (It’s our duty to embrace lazy in any possible form over the holidays.) We’ve asked some of Toronto’s stellar bartenders to share their recipes for your good cheer.
Kris Bahamondes, bar manager at Soho House Toronto (192 Adelaide West, 416-599-7646, sohohouse-toronto.com), keeps it simple with a clean and classic recipe he likes to call Knockout Brunch Punch. If there’s ever a time to take advantage of the napping opportunities the holidays provide, it’s post-brunch punch.
Knockout Brunch Punch (serves 10 if you use a 750 ml bottle of booze)
2 parts spirit (Bahamondes generally uses Tito’s vodka, but this recipe is versatile)
1 part simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part black tea, chilled
Mix together in a punch bowl and let sit in the fridge for a few hours, allowing flavours to mingle. Ten minutes before serving, add ice cubes or one large piece of ice along with cucumber, lemon and orange wheels and a big bunch of mint.
“There’s something so wholesome and warming about the concept of punch. It’s such a perfect match for the holiday season, both in ethos and in practicality,” says Owen Walker, new bar manager at Bar Isabel (797 College, 416-531-2222, barisabel.com). He mixes amber rum, cognac and Pedro Ximénez sherry in this elegant communal bowl garnished with star anise and apple rings.
Punch Clandestino (serves 30-40)
750 ml El Dorado 12 years old rum
750 ml Remy Martin VSOP
750 ml apple cider
800 ml fresh lemon juice
250 ml Osborne Pedro Ximénez sherry
500 ml spiced fig syrup (see below)
Sliced apples and star anise pods for garnish
Top with soda to taste.
Spiced fig syrup:
250g chopped dried figs
3 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod, split
1 star anise pod
750g refined sugar
700 ml water
Combine ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and cool.
The ever-classy Geraldine (1564 Queen West, 647-352-8815, geraldinetoronto.com) does a tableside tea service of bar manager Michael Mooney’s Parisienne Milk Punch ($45 for 4 people), his take on a classic Jerry Thomas recipe. Though it’s involved, this delicious recipe is well worth tackling at home. (Try it at Geraldine first and you’ll see.) Clarified milk doesn’t affect the flavour but enhances viscosity, contributing a remarkably silky mouth feel.
Parisienne Milk Punch (serves 25-30)
Juice of 6 lemons, zest of 4 (use a microplane)
1 lb caster sugar
1 pineapple (peeled, sliced, blitzed in blender)
30 coriander seeds
1 stick cinnamon
20 oz Calvados
10 oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum
5 oz Goslings dark rum
5 oz Havana 7 rum
5 oz Lucid Absinthe
350 ml strong rooibos and lavender tea (350 ml water, 3 rooibus tea bags, tablespoon dried lavender)
40 oz boiling water
Grind the spices in a coffee grinder. Add spices along with sugar and lemon zest to a large vessel. Add boiling water and stir to dissolve sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Let infuse for 24-48 hours before adding the juice of 2 more lemons and 40 oz of hot full-fat milk and stir (milk will curdle). Strain through a coffee filter, chill and serve over ice (from a bowl or teapot).
Winter and whisky go hand in hand. Dave Mitton, Canadian whisky ambassador for Corby/Pernod-Ricard, mixes up an easy-drinking rye-based punch seasoned with festive notes of apple, walnut and baking spices. It’s inspired by familiar holiday flavours.
A Presidential Punch (serves 12)
1½ bottle of 750 ml Lot No. 40 whisky
32 oz fresh-pressed apple cider
16 oz fresh lemon juice
½ cup cinnamon syrup (see below)
15 dashes of Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters
30 oz sparkling water
1½ litre water
1 litre raw sugar
5 cinnamon sticks (broken up)
Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, remove from heat and let cool. Strain into a bottle and refrigerate for up to one month.
Combine the rye whisky, apple cider, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup and bitters in a bowl. Stir and refrigerate. Add a big block of ice before serving. Pour 2 oz over a large cube of ice in an Old Fashioned glass, add 2 oz sparkling water and garnish with an apple ring and lightly grated cinnamon.
Punchbowls: White – $110, Clear – $89, both available at BYOB (972 Queen West, 416-858-2932, byobto.com).