PUNCH Turns Two: Our Favorite Stories from the Last Year

In honor of our second birthday, here's a look back at our favorite stories from the last twelve months.

Two whole years ago, PUNCH was born into the world on the backs of countless bottles of wine, misguided nightcaps and frozen Margaritas. We’ve come a long way in those 730 days, and in the last year in particular we’ve expanded in ways we couldn’t have imagined on launch day.

The inimitable Jon Bonné joined us as Senior Contributing Editor, writing a regular column for us and adding his vast knowledge of wine to the PUNCH roster. Zachary Sussman came aboard as our New York wine columnist, covering the best of this great city’s wine scene in “The List” along with bringing his insights to our general wine coverage. And photographer Daniel Krieger began letting us tag along on his travels to truly special bars around the country in our “Bar-Tripping” series, while continuing to contribute his distinctive cocktail photography to our Cocktail Collections.

We also started bringing you monthly wine recommendations in our House Wine column, which sees a panel of certified wine smarties blind-tasting wines under $25. And we launched our City Guides, in which we cover the best of a city’s drinks scene, from  L.A. to Tokyo to Rome to our very own Brooklyn. Be on the lookout for a host of other drinking towns to come in the next year. (Nashville, we’re coming for you.)

Through it all, we’ve had the honor of working with many, many talented writers, photographers, illustrators, sommeliers and bartenders. To all of you, we say: Thank you. We wouldn’t be PUNCH without you.

In honor of our second birthday, here’s a look back at our favorite stories from the last twelve months.

Colares: Into the Heart of Wine’s Lost Region | Zachary Sussman

The ancient wine region of Colares has been fast succumbing to development and decay—just as the world has started to rediscover it. Zachary Sussman on what the slow extinction of some of the world’s most compelling wines can teach us about how little we know.

So Long, Seahaven: Wine’s New Mainstream | Jon Bonné

In an effort to rub out the complications of a complex wine world, many of America’s tastemakers aimed to simplify it. But like Seahaven, the fictitious town in “The Truman Show,” that narrow world has split at the seams. Jon Bonné on wine’s new mainstream(s).

Why We Still Worship Hemingway at His Bars | Leslie Pariseau

Even to the Hemingway dilettante, the bars where the literary giant drank are famous. But what has his legacy bequeathed to them? Leslie Pariseau traces her way through Hemingway’s haunts to see how his memory, and the near-religious fervor he continues to inspire, has affected them through the years.

Our Wine Could Be Your Life | Christopher Ross

Over the last several years, natural wine has attracted more than its fair share of adoration from the indie musician set—from Jenny Lewis to James Murphy. Christopher Ross on what the two worlds share in common, and why they were practically destined to collide.

The Case of America’s Disappearing Gay Bars | Peter Lawrence Kane

In cities like San Francisco and New York, gay bars—once central to both a city’s gay community and the liberation movement itself—are in decline. Peter Lawrence Kane on where LGBT nightlife is headed.

The Quick Rise and (Tragic) Fall of Bed Clubs | Aaron Goldfarb

There was a time when the hottest place to go on night out was a nightclub with beds in it. Aaron Goldfarb delves into the meteoric rise—from anarcho-artists’ collective in Amsterdam to that infamous Sex and the City episode—and tragic downfall of the American “bed club” trend.

The Siren Song of the Jell-O Shot | Regan Hofmann

The Jell-O shot has mostly been banished to the ghetto of ingenious underage drinking. But there’s beauty in that. Regan Hofmann on the surprising origins and nostalgic pleasures of jellied alcohol.

Separating Fad from Future in Natural Wine | Alice Feiring

As the natural wine movement enters its second generation, the techniques and principles that define it are changing. Alice Feiring talks to some of natural wine’s icons about now-popular techniques—from cold carbonic maceration to clay aging—and what they believe to be fad, or the way of the future.

Hong Kong’s Hottest New Nightclub: 7-Eleven | Sarah Baird

Largely a product of lax liquor laws and exorbitant drink prices, 7-Eleven convenience stores have become the hottest new hangouts in Hong Kong’s nightlife epicenter. Sarah Baird on the strange phenomenon that is “Club 7-Eleven.”

The LA Cocktail Lab Fueling America’s Best Bars | Jennifer Cacicio and Dylan + Jeni

Alex Day, one of the minds behind a handful of NYC and LA bars, works in a cocktail lair outfitted like something from Willy Wonka’s factory. Jennifer Cacicio and Dylan + Jeni dive into the lab and Day’s process.

We’ll Never Be Royals | Christian DeBenedetti

Instead of the “divine right of kings” lineage that often drives the wine and spirits industries, brewing gives everybody a fair shake, at least—and, at most, a shot at glory. Christian DeBenedetti on how the inherent egalitarianism of craft beer has become the source of its meteoric rise.

Cocktails & Dreams | Brad Thomas Parsons

Though critically panned, Tom Cruise’s ’80s love letter to flair bartending, Cocktail, undoubtedly launched countless careers in the drinks world. Well, at least one. Brad Thomas Parsons on how Cocktails & Dreams led him to a stint at a local beach bar—and sparked a lifelong love of drinks.

Swimming with Montana’s Magical Tiki Mermaids | Sarah Baird

Located inside a motel in Great Falls, Montana, the legendary Sip ‘n Dip Lounge has become cowboy country’s premiere tiki bar, complete with swimming mermaids. Sarah Baird travels to the bar to play sea princess for a night.

Bar Design in the Post-Speakeasy Era | Christopher Ross

Over the last 15 years “speakeasy” has become synonymous with “cocktail bar.” Now that the aesthetic has run its course, bar owners and designers are charged with redefining what the cocktail bar looks like. Christopher Ross on design in the post-speakeasy era.

Champagne’s Next Revolution Is Now | Jon Bonné

For years, the balance of power in Champagne has been shifting—from large producers to small growers—but there is a deeper change afoot. Jon Bonné on how a new outlook on farming and terroir is rewriting the region’s future.

Can the Mojito’s Reputation Be Saved? | Drew Lazor

The mojito has an image problem. Drew Lazor on the rise and fall of Cuba’s most famous drink, from Hemingway favorite to club cliché, and the crew of bartenders trying to rehabilitate it.

Inside NOLA’s Secret Garden of Wine | Daniel Krieger and Sarah Baird

In his “Bar Tripping” column, photographer Daniel Krieger travels the world to capture its most photogenic bars. Here, he visits Bacchanal, the magical backyard party of a wine bar that’s become a New Orleans institution.

Garnishes Gone Wild: The Changing Aesthetics of the Cocktail | Robert Simonson

Once a utility player in the cocktail game largely used to add flavor to a drink, garnishes have gone from understudy to center stage. Robert Simonson on how the garnish became theater and what it says about the state of cocktails today.

Drinking Wine Like the Romans Do | Katherine Cole

The notion that wine should be consumed out of thin-walled crystal, preferably on a stem, is practically scripture. But one of the hottest new ceramics studios, Mazama Wares, is seeking to change that. Katherine Cole on the unexpected pleasures of drinking wine from terra cotta.

The Speakeasy Comes to Suburbia | Jordana Rothman

What happens when the vestiges of the urban avant-garde start to sprawl? Jordana Rothman on meeting the speakeasy in suburbia, 15 years later.

What Is “Pét-Nat,” Really? | Zachary Sussman

The lightly bubbly, often cloudy style of sparkling wine called pétillant-naturel—aka “pét-nat”—seemed to come out of nowhere to stake its claim as the wine trend of the moment. But what exactly is it? Zachary Sussman on the history of the trend and how it’s taken hold far beyond its roots in the Loire Valley.

Is Wine Developing Its Own Version of Normcore? | Jennifer Fiedler

Of late, the fashion world has seen the rise of “normcore,” a trend in which high-effort style is being replaced by everyman basics. Wine, it turns out, is experiencing its own version of the trend. Jennifer Fiedler on how blending in may be the new standing out.

The Next Frontier in Barrel-Aged Craft Beer | Aaron Goldfarb

Once an obscure beer geek obsession, beers aged in unorthodox barrels—from mezcal and aquavit barrels to those that once held Tabasco or Boulevardiers—have become the new frontier. Aaron Goldfarb on what’s working, what isn’t and what the future holds.

Inside the Magical World of Tiki Kon | Leslie Pariseau and Dylan + Jeni

At Portland’s annual celebration of Polynesian-pop fantasy, anyone with a love of Hawaiian shirts and rum can live the good life, if just for a weekend. Real-life tiki god Martin Cate—owner of San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove—takes us inside the tropical fever dream that is Tiki Kon.

Fake Blood & Booze: Drinking at GWARbar | Sarah Baird

The legendary thrash metal band, Gwar, has taken their brand of (fake) blood-soaked rock behind the bar. Sarah Baird visits the band’s Virginia watering hole—GWARbar—to chat tiki and what it’s like to run their own gruesome version of Graceland.

Home Bartending Goes Hardcore | Dan Saltzstein

As the craft cocktail movement continues to march on, amateur enthusiasts are continuing to multiply. From amassing 600-plus bottles of rare spirits to gaining legions of Instagram followers, Dan Saltzstein explores the more obsessive fringe of the at-home bartending world.

Will Booze TV Ever Go Mainstream? | Kenny Herzog

TV is awash with shows about food and cooking. But drinking? Not so much. Kenny Herzog reports on why shows about booze have struggled to find mainstream success.

Inside London’s Growing Crop of Experimental Cocktail Bars | Tyler Wetherall

From vaporized Gin & Tonics to a punch bowl big enough to raft across to drinks served in everything from take-out boxes to rain boots, London’s bar scene has taken a turn for the experimental. Tyler Wetherall on what’s fueling the boom.

The Rebirth of Truly Local American Craft Whiskey | Kara Newman

Until recently, American distillers had largely forgotten the art of malting their own local and heritage grains. Kara Newman on the rebirth of proprietary malting floors and how it’s changing the character of American craft whiskey.

The Method Behind the “Bartender’s Choice” Cocktail Bar | Drew Lazor

In a few select bars around the country, menus have been replaced by conversation between customer and bartender. Drew Lazor explores where the concept of “bartender’s choice” cocktail bars originated, and how drink-makers navigate the path from a collection of nouns and adjectives to an original cocktail.

Inside Salvador Dalí’s Unknown Wine Book | Regan Hofmann

Published in 1977, Salvador Dalí’s mostly forgotten Wines of Gala is the predictably eccentric follow-up to his absurdist cookbook Les Dîners de Gala. Regan Hofmann on its revolutionary way of thinking about wine, and why it’s never been more relevant.

The Rise of the Fast-Casual Cocktail Bar | Leah Mennies

Now that drinkers have grown accustomed to cocktails made with fresh ingredients and top-notch skills, bar-owners are starting to offer them in more casual settings—often right alongside their high-end counterparts. From NYC’s The Happiest Hour to LA’s Honeycut, Leah Mennies on what’s fueling the boom of “fast-casual” cocktail bars.

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