Packing a Punch


I’ll be honest—when I think punch, only three things come to mind: (1) The winning bridal-shower concoction of orange sherbet and 7-UP, irreversibly separating into highly suspect, foamy clumps an hour in. (2) Whatever tub of tainted “juice” frat boys probably pee-peed in at college parties. (3) The Capri-Sun pouch.

The world of fancier punch, I’ve by and large only glimpsed in the pages of Bon Appetit and pastel-colored cookbooks—the same ones that invariably list recipes of elegant Pimm’s cups and winning berry trifles. It always seemed like a waste of effort. This was for those weird, freaky people who had time to freeze their roses into ice-cube “rings” and who thought carving watermelon into baby carriages or other shapes was somehow forgivable and okay. If you had all that time in the summer, you’d drop it assembling one real sweet flag cake; maybe toss off a very necessary gazpacho aspic while you’re at it. Punch’s history—dating back to India’s colonization—was unbeknownst to me. Hell, where does that leave the Kool-Aid Man?

Surely, some compromise must exist between Champagne brunches and rubbing-alcohol-spiked Juicy Juice. There is: Behold Sutra ‘s Simple Summer Punch, what the Lower East Side bar is serving up at their July 4th bash this weekend. Created by Alex “Luca” Ott, the mixologist behind the cocktail menus at Sushi Samba, Bao 111, and the Parisian Buddha Bar, it appears a lot fancier than it actually is. Ott spikes the muddled-grape punch with vodka instead of rum to keep it light and summery. The addition of lychee juice and white wine seem like a pretty frou-frou touch—but, says Ott, “canned lychee juice can be used, and you can grab a two-liter bottle of $5 white wine.” A pricier option is also available from Odea, and a recipe for gross debauchery, courtesy of Otto’s Shrunken Head.

If making way for the mighty punch bowl in your glorified ice box still seems brilliantly stupid, use it as an excuse to try a few on summer cocktail menus around the city. Prohibition Punch at
Campbell Apartment harkens back to the days when fruit juice was used to cover the taste of crappy homemade hooch (we imagine Campbell uses more quality booze for their $15 version). Grace does a fancy rum punch, made with Gosling’s and Bacardi Limon, shaken and served over the rocks ($10). Then there’s always the subtle volcano bowls at Waikiki Wally’s ($29), or new bar Sly, which is pulling out a special July 4th punch ($5), with alternating levels of red, white, and blue (using Absolut Peach, sours, blue curaçao, and cranberry juice). Will wonders never cease.

The Swanky-But-Pricey Punch – Odea’s July 4th Punch

16 oz. Grey Goose Citron
20 fresh strawberries
6 lemons (juiced)
Muddle up the strawberries, and combine with the vodka and juice of the lemons. Top with 7-Up.

The Cheap-Yet-Equally-Classy Punch – Sutra’s Simple Summer Punch

1 ltr. vodka
2 qts. lychee juice (can use canned)
1 pound red seedless grapes
10 oz. sugar
4 lemons (juiced)
2 limes (juiced)
Remove the stems from the grapes and mash up with the sugar. Combine with the rest of the ingredients in a big punch bowl, cover, and refrigerate for an hour. Ladle out the punch over glasses of ice.

The Let’s-Get-Shamelessly-Wasted Punch – Otto Shrunken Head’s Killer Punch

1/2 bottle of light rum
1/2 bottle of dark rum
1 cup almond syrup
1 cup triple sec
1 cup fresh lime juiceCombine all ingredients, and then fill the rest of the bowl with sour mix and lots of ice. Add some club soda to kill the sweetness. Garnish with mint.