Holiday Punch: Easy as 1-2-3-4

A bowl of punch with tea next to small serving glasses at Martina // Photo by Katie Cannon

A bowl of punch with tea next to small serving glasses at Martina // Photo by Katie Cannon


unch is a celebratory drink and quite a remarkable thing. At its core, it is a simple combination of distilled spirits, citrus, juice, sugar, water, and a touch of spice. Like many culinary endeavors that have withstood the test of time, punch starts with a simple formula and evolves with complexity as the user learns and develops their own personal technique and palate.

Using the original recipe template (one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak), we will create a punch inspired by the celebrated Philadelphia Fish House Punch, and walk you through how to modify it to make it your own.

One of Sour

The sour component balances our punch by drying out the sugar component and giving our beverage lift. Lemon is the sunshine fruit and I like using it if I need some more brightness. For all other purposes I like using limes, as they have a little more acidity and add a green apple-like quality with their malic acid component. Other citrus such as orange and grapefruit are great too—just be sure to add some lemon or lime to fortify the sour component (they don’t have enough acid by themselves to balance out the rest of the ingredients). I like combining grapefruit with lime or orange with lemon in a 3:2 ratio.

Two of Sweet

Combine equal parts water with sugar by weight and whisk until everything is amalgamated. Heat up your water first before you measure out so you don’t cook your sugar granules. You can customize this step by replacing the water with your favorite tea or using different types of sugar. Demerara and muscovado are awesome unrefined sugars that add a touch of depth with earthy molasses qualities. Warming spices like cinnamon, clove, cardamom, allspice, or star anise can be steeped in the syrup as well.

Dustin Nguyen adding his spirit base to the punch bowl // Photo by Katie Cannon

Dustin Nguyen adding his spirit base of choice to the punch bowl // Photo by Katie Cannon

Three of Strong

Use your favorite spirit! Around this time of the year, I like using gin to add a depth of botanicals appropriate for the holiday season, or aged spirits if I’m looking to add the warming qualities of oak. For this punch, I’m splitting our spirit base equally between white rum, dark rum, and brandy. Put them all in a container and add tea. Infuse for 10 minutes, strain, and add to punch.

Four of Weak

Finally, we need to add our diluting agent. This could be anything from water, tea, seltzer, and even modifiers like sparkling wine, cider, and rosé (if adding anything with booze in it, decrease your spirit base slightly to balance the alcohol content). If you decide to add an effervescent diluent, make sure to add this right before serving.

I like to batch my punch a few days ahead. With time, punch grows and evolves, much like a soup or a braise. There might be some sediment at the bottom after this duration; just pour off the top and leave the sediment behind. The result will be something much cleaner, subtle, and nuanced. Gravity is the best filter.

Chill it!

Ice is a huge component of punch. The bigger your ice, the less surface area to volume it has, and thus dilutes slower. This is important as punch is the ever-flowing bowl that evolves throughout the evening. At Martina, we get our ice from MN Pure. They make their crystal clear ice with clinebell machines that slowly freeze the water. If you can’t find any or would like to try to make it yourself at home, fill up a small insulated cooler and stick it in your freezer. After a day and a half, the water should freeze completely and be crystal clear.

Nguyen scooping the punch after letting it chill on ice before serving // Photo by Katie Cannon

Nguyen scooping the punch after letting it chill on ice  // Photo by Katie Cannon

Holiday Punch

100 milliliters  lemon (or mixed citrus) juice
200 milliliters simple syrup (1:1)
300 milliliters peach-green tea infused spirit base
400 milliliters seltzer

Nyugen likes to top the punch with an aniseed from the tea ingredients mixture before serving // Photo by Katie Cannon

Nyugen likes to garnish the punch with star anise before serving // Photo by Katie Cannon

Peach Tea-Infused Spirit Base

100 milliliters white rum
100 milliliters dark rum
100 milliliters brandy
5 grams peach green tea