Nearly any drink can be batched for a large group. If you’ve got rye or bourbon and sweet vermouth on hand, you’ve got a pitcher of Manhattans. If you’ve got lemons, whiskey, tea and sugar, you’ve got a basic punch, the oldest batched cocktail in the book. And if you’re Charles Dickens you take that basic punch template, swap in rum and cognac, set that baby on fire and voilà—you’ve got the favorite punch of one of literary history’s most famous drinkers. (Dickens also had a thing for the Smoking Bishop, a port and red wine punch that appeared in A Christmas Carol.)
Around the same time that Dickens was throwing back everything from sherry to champagne, the famous Massachusetts senator, Daniel Webster, had become the subject of what amounted to a 19th-century game of stump the bartender. His namesake punch (of which there were and still are many variations) is a seemingly incongruous mix of red wine, sherry, cognac, rum and champagne notorious for its strength and, hence, party-starting skills.
In the same realm of potency is Chris Hannah’s (of French 75 Bar in New Orleans) Winter Waltz—a sort of winterized take on the Manhattan—which can easily batched by the pitcher and shaken à la minute for guests looking for a spicy, high-ABV boost. For a (slightly) more mellow large-format punch suitable for the holidays, Ferdinand & Isabella’s Punch, from Talia Baiocchi’s book Sherry, is an oloroso- and rum-infused punch that takes inspiration from both the Caribbean and Spain, hence its monarch-inspired moniker.
So, if you’re looking to etch your name into the annals of holiday goodwill, do as Dickens or Webster would do and show up with a flowing bowl in hand. Here are five modern and classic holiday punches fit for a crowd.