Punch launched in October 2013. In the editor’s note of our inaugural ’zine, I sought to capture what I hoped Punch might become. Something rigorous but playful, meaningful, a bit subversive—a site that proved drinks possess the same humanity, cultural capital and potential for storytelling as food. No pumpkin beer listicles allowed. No big deal, we thought, as Leslie Pariseau, Punch’s founding deputy editor, and I hand-sewed the bindings of 500 ’zines with this earnest mission statement on the inside cover. I’d never edited a story in my life, and neither had Leslie.
We worked at a plastic folding table in my living room for the following two years. We made a list of every writer we knew, or wanted to know, and pitched the vision. We called in favors. With almost no marketing budget, the plan was simple: Make something good and hope people care. Penguin Random House, Punch’s parent company, bet they might, and gave us the space to find out on our own. The brand’s singularity is a direct result of that trust, and the creative space they provided. The trade—sommeliers, bartenders, winemakers, distillers—became our biggest supporters; part of Punch’s mission became about paying that forward.
I eventually got my living room back. The site grew, and so did the team, and while the ethos of those early days—the scrappiness, hopeful energy, hard work—has never changed, each person who joined Punch shaped it in ways I could never have envisioned on my own. Bianca Prum became managing editor, and then director of partnerships, overseeing the early days of what would become Punch's creative content studio. She still works with us on partnerships. Lizzie Munro, now Punch’s art director, joined as an associate editor and photographer, and grew a visual “strategy” that included creative ways to photoshop Flickr images into a visual aesthetic that has become Punch’s calling card. Allison Hamlin, Punch’s partnerships manager, began as social media manager, and eventually went on to oversee the brand’s marketing objectives, client relationships and an ever more robust content studio. I am still not convinced there is anything she can’t do. Chloe Frechette, our senior editor, started as an intern with an encyclopedic grasp of cocktail culture and a ripping sense of humor. She’s since gone on to shape Punch’s editorial vision and cocktail coverage as a first-class editor and writer and a steward of Punch’s unique voice in the space. Michelle Curb, forever friend of Punch, became a trusted adviser and helped us grow a sales structure. Peter Romero, who now heads up sales, followed in her footsteps and has brought an uncommon editorial sense, and sincerity, to the work. Kaitlin Bray, our director of audience development, smartly knew the potential of the brand on social, and has led tremendous growth with an intuitive understanding of Punch’s promise. Tatiana Bautista, Punch’s assistant editor, joined us from Taste, quickly applying a natural curiosity and editorial sixth sense to drinks. Matt Rodbard, who pinch hit for us on edit, brought his trademark positivity, and a handful of new talent, to Punch. Both Aaron Wehner, who co-founded Punch and acted as a friend, mentor and advocate through it all, and Lorena Jones, who has played that same role in Punch’s more recent years, are owed a deep debt of gratitude as well.
To name every contributor who has made Punch what it is would be a tall ask, but there are many who have consistently shaped the voice and visuals of Punch, past and present: Aaron Goldfarb, Brad Thomas Parsons, Kara Newman, Jon Bonné, Robert Simonson, Megan Krigbaum, Zachary Sussman, Drew Lazor, Liina Paavonpera, Bridget Cheng, Chris Ross, John deBary, Emily Timberlake, Kelly Snowden, Jack Schramm, Sarah Baird, Nick Caruso, Yolanda Evans, Thad Vogler, Joshua David Stein, Besha Rodell, Tom Downey, Courtney Balestier, Catherine Sweet, Laurel Miller, Michael Snyder, Danny Chau, Jordan Michelman, Miguel de Leon, Jason Diamond, Dylan + Jeni, Eric Medsker, Daniel Krieger, Tony Biancosino, Nick Hensley, Anthony Rayburn, Felipe Luna, Michelle Heimerman, Shannon Sturgis, Kelly Puleio, Lyndon French, Raphaelle Macaron, Rymie, Lauren Cierzan, Eliana Rodgers, Dingding Hu, Mallory Heyer, Carmela Caldart, Carolyn Figel, Ellie Skrzat, Joe Gough, Maria Hergueta and so many others.
Today, Punch proudly joins the Vox Media family, alongside Eater, Vox, SB Nation, the Verge, Polygon, New York magazine and its digital brands and more. I can’t think of a better partner for Punch’s next phase of growth, nor would I have imagined that we’d find a home within the country’s premier digital media company huddled over that folding table eight years ago. Vox Media has the tools, institutional IQ and ethos that will allow Punch to grow while still remaining true to the vision originally set forth. Importantly, we will become a sister brand to Eater, with opportunities for collaboration that will undoubtedly make both of our brands better.
This is a proud moment for the entire Punch team as we join Vox Media, and take a brand built on passion and dedication to drinks into the future. Stay tuned, and stay thirsty.