From its alleged invention by sailors of the British East India Company after their beer turned rancid to the Founding Fathers celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence with 76 different bowls, punch has often served as a festive vehicle for consuming copious amounts of alcohol. With its large format making it a natural choice for group gatherings and its natural bent towards being served hot, its little wonder that punch has been a go-to party-starter and winter warmer for much of its history.
But lately, the quintessential communal cocktail has seen a renaissance as a warm-weather refresher, having been reworked by modern bartenders seeking a large-format cooler for oppressive summer days.
In Manhattan, Pouring Ribbons‘ Joaquín Simó answers with his “eminently quaffable” Dear Prudence—a citrusy mix of fresh lemon and grapefruit juice spiked with the clean kick of vodka. At Goodnight Sonny, Brian Hawthorne pairs gin with Lillet Rouge and strawberries for his floral, berry-driven Strawberry Letter. And over at Grand Army Bar in Brooklyn, Damon Boelte’s Parish Hall Punch is a boozy throwback to old church punches, with amontillado, gin and cider taking the place of the sherbet and ginger ale of his youth.
Meanwhile, Gary Hayward at the Embers Ski Lodge in Nashville muddles together the most refreshing summer flavors—cucumber and watermelon—before topping it all with sparkling wine in his Ajax Punch. And Chantal Tseng’s Babs in D.C. is a fruity medley that riffs on vintage tea-based recipes with both gin and sherry, plus lemon juice and homemade raspberry tea syrup.
While it may be taking a more easygoing turn, no one’s saying punch has lost its ability to start a party. “Punch should be something you can drink almost mindlessly, without trying to over analyze it,” says Simó. Here are five recipes that fit the bill.