For holiday libations, there are two things to keep in mind: cost and time. Both food and beverage costs have increased quite a bit, so I could talk for days about super high-end, expensive, hard-to-find “wow” items. Or I can dig a little deeper and talk about something accessible and easy to find, something that’s more of a budget-worthy “wow.” Aren’t those usually the best anyway? And when we’re talking time, who wants to man (or woman) a bar all night and be bartender…besides me, of course. The easiest thing to do is have something self-serve so you don’t have to keep an eye on peoples’ drinks all night. As the host, you have enough to worry about. So, what can we do to make things inexpensive and easy? Plan and prep. With just a few ingredients, you can create several different cocktails…something for everyone…and make it a great party. Punches are always a great option, because they are easy to make and are self-serve. Keep in mind when you are mixing alcohol with a bunch of other ingredients that you don’t necessarily have to use the super high-end stuff. Also keep in mind that you should prepare for 1-2 drinks per person, per hour.
This recipe serves 15 – 20, so you can adjust the quantities to suit your needs. If you want to make a non-alcoholic version for guests and kids, just omit the Bourbon…and make sure the punch bowls are labeled clearly!
1 gallon Apple Cider
6 Star Anise
6 cnnamon sticks (plus garnish)
1 zest of orange peel
32 ounces bourbon (such as Maker’s Mark)
Combine cider, anise, cinnamon, clove and zest in a pot and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Strain into punch bowl, add bourbon and serve warm or over ice.
This recipe also serves about 15-20 and is meant to be used in one day. This is a cooked version, just in case you are nervous about eating raw eggs.
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 quart milk
1 pint cream
16 ounces bourbon
Beat the yolks until they are light in color and gradually mix in 1/2 cup of the sugar.
Combine milk, cream and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly add the yolks to the warm mixture, being careful to not add too quickly…or you’ll get scrambled eggs.
Return to heat and bring to 160 F. Add bourbon and place in bowl in refrigerator to cool.
While cooling, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until they form stiff peaks. Fold into the bourbon mixture, grate fresh nutmeg over the concoction and serve.
Pomegranate Prosecco Punch
This is a lighter option, in case your guests don’t want mixed cocktails or hard liquor. Prosecco is so popular right now, and you don’t need to spend very much to get a nice bottle. This recipe makes 12 drinks.
1 bottle Prosecco
2 cups orange juice
2 cups limeade
1 quart pomegranate juice
Mix Prosecco, orange juice, limeade and pomegranate juice into a punch bowl.
Add orange slices and pomegranate seeds for garnish.
Serve in glasses over ice (don’t add ice to the punch bowl or you will water it down).
These three punches are all easy to make, and they won’t break your bank. And you may not even need to go out and buy each and every ingredient if you already have some of them for your holiday cooking. Not to mention the fact that no one goes to a party empty-handed these days, so you can ask your guests to bring locally-brewed seasonal beers or their favorite wine. The point is, you can mix it up AND not go over budget AND create cocktail “WOWs” for your guests!
Beverage Manager/Certified Sommelier and Mixologist
Morton’s The Steakhouse