Tuesday, December 1, 2009

11 Seasonal Punches (and Recipes) From Top Mixologists

Here are a couple of punches I created for BizBash Magazine, a magazine focusing on large scale events and parties. I also did the set design. I'll post pics here soon. For now, enjoy!

"Old-fashioned punches have made a comeback on the bar scene, and rightfully so. The nostalgic concoctions satisfy the growing attention to high-quality, well-crafted cocktails, but are often more economical than their single-serving counterparts. And here’s why punch is ideal for entertaining this holiday season: Guests can help themselves, which gets them mingling while saving on staffing costs. And if this year’s party is in the conference room, it’s simple enough to make for a small crowd yourself. Here are 11 seasonal drink recipes from notable mixologists, and a sampling of appropriate serving ware."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cazuela Punch

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the New York launch for Don Roberto Tequilas. Now, I won't bore you with detailed tasting notes about the tequila itself, that's for other bloggers, but I'll say that they're quite good. More importantly for us at Punch in the Mouth, there was punch! A punch with a story, no less, the best kind.

My friend Junior Merino, a prolific cocktail and tequila expert, was on hand as Don Roberto's mixologist. As one of the signature cocktails, he chose to fall back on the traditional Cazuela. This stuff is as communal as it gets and Junior had a lot good stories about it. You throw a bunch of tequila, citrus, grenadine and grapefruit Jarritos in a traditional earthenware casserole-like bowl and you go to town. Or as the case may be, you go through town. See, in Jalisco and Guadalajara, driving down a dirt road through small farming towns you're likely to see Cazuela stands every few miles. You pull over and you have one of two (awesome) options. Option one: Grab a straw and for a nominal fee (say 5 cents) take a nice long sip. Or, Option two: if you're feeling like you need a bit more, they'll grab a sandwich bag, ladle some Cazuela in, and wrap the whole thing around a straw. Yeah you read that, punch in a bag. A new height has been reached!

It's been a long time since I've seen punch at a tasting, let alone a tequila one!

Pretty awesome stuff, and I'll be writing more about Cazuela punch in the future. In the meantime, I took the liberty of modifying Junior's single-serving recipe to a full punch size. Now, Junior being Junior has a flair for the exotic, so I've also added some alternatives. Hope you enjoy it!

Don Roberto Refresher

20 oz Don Roberto Tequila Reposado
10 oz Grilled Grapefruit Juice
30 oz Jarritos de Toronja (or Squirt for you gringos)
2.5 oz Hibiscus Syrup (Junior makes his own, you can substitute the more traditional grenadine)
2.5 oz Orange Liqueur (Junior used Combier)
5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2.5 oz Fresh Orange Juice

Garnish with slices of Lemon, Lime, Orange and Grapefruit Stir ingredients in large bowl, preferably a Cazuela (which can be found pretty cheap). Optionally you may add a pinch of salt or rim a glass in salt (the former being more traditional).

That's a gooeseberry blossom - lots of flair.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Birthday Punch

Ah, punch! -- where to begin?

There's something very powerful about the image of the punchbowl, something anachronistic & very, very deep-set, as though, through long use & some distance, that weighted image has sunk directly into our collective unconscious. The punchbowl calls to mind recollections of gatherings we may or may not have attended, candlelit & rowdy.

A good punch is spellbinding. It summons up forth conviviality, slows time, kindles & rekindles friendships. There's something unmistakably magical about the sound of a ladle darting around a block of ice. Better than the ring of silver of a wine glass, it demands attention -- but in a low-key, continuous, unobtrusive, and irresistible way. It's a patient charm: punch has been around for a very long time.

A good punch is a mystical experience. In a sense, maybe each bowl of punch is every other bowl of punch. Drinking a glass of punch, ladling from the flowing bowl: you're drinking from the One True Punch in one of its many manifestations. When you lift a glass of punch to your mouth, toast the assembled revelers and merry-makers, it's as though you're lifting that glass & toasting each and every drinker through the long parade of punch drinkers, all assembled in some sort of punch-space, punch-time.

A good punch is dangerous. It's silky smooth, and tastes only of the best points of alcohol. Large men, great drinkers, have fallen, unmanned, by too much punch, too quickly. People do the funniest things while punch-drunk: punch intoxicates like a heavy fragrance. It lends a certain unreality to a gathering -- one doesn't doubt those legendary stories of bowls as big as fountains, with child-servers paddling in mini-canoes serving the assembled through the day into the night into the day into the night.

So noted, the Birthday Punch:

A few years ago, in celebration of a birthday, my friends & I set up to whip up a punch: ah, but not just any punch! A Birthday Punch. It began simply (as all great punches do), but quickly escalated into a carefully orchestrated free-for-all. All the great tricks were employed: Batavia Arrack, Angostura & Absinthe, strong rum. Bases split a thousand different ways, complex sweeteners. The zest and juice of a great many citruses. Concocted in a space-age punchbowl of great depth and capacity like some wyrd sisters' cauldron. Iced down with a large block of ice, served surrounded with frozen vessels hewn out of pineapples.

Finished off, at the last, a la cafe brulot: Lemonhart 151 poured down the zest of oranges studded with cloves, ablaze. Hypnotic. The assembled watched in hushed reverence.

Punch was served.

& appropriately, forgotten. Because, of course, punch is the great facilitator: even at its most garish, its most complex, punch calls up a certain atmosphere, and then fades into a very pleasant background, where, one presumes, it sits pleased in itself, fulfilled, burning down like a lamp.

It was a hell of a punch.

Everything in perfect balance and order, all eighteen or so ingredients: enchanting, delicious. & it led to a hell of night. I'm not sure that I could ever recreate that punch, although -- of course -- I dutifully noted its many ingredients & their respective proportions.

I know I've got that recipe around here somewhere. Pardon me while I go look for it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Endless Summer Punch

I approach most punches with whatever is in season (duh). At Prime Meats I'm blessed with a ridiculously large walk-in, an encouraging kitchen staff, and a phenomenal support team that sources fresh and organic produce from the Hudson Valley and Pennsylvannia. Around mid-summer we started getting some really fantastic wild-seed TriStar strawberries, but that's for another post. Around the same time, and even now as the season comes to a close, we're getting some great raspberries.

Now, the season really is coming to a close. Take a walk around New York City today and you're in for some beautiful sweater weather, the first day like it in the season. This kind of weather makes me want to wear camel hair coats and get all literary up in here. Anyone will tell you that I love alliteration in a punch. Its a great literary device so why can't it be a good culinary device? With that I give you my first bespoke punch:

Endless Summer Punch - Raspberry, Rooibos Tea, and Rum:

8 oz Raspberry Syrup
14 oz Rum (I used the Rhum Barbancourt 8 year)
8 oz Rooibos Tea
4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 of a Cucumber (thinly sliced and quartered, as garnish and slight aromatic)
8 sprigs of Mint
20 or so Raspberries (again as a garnish and aromatic)
2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Prepare Raspberry syrup by muddling half a pint of raspberries with boiling water and about 6 oz of sugar, to taste (depending on ripeness of raspberries), strain and bottle. Prepare Rooibos tea and allow to cool. Add all liquid ingredients and stir. Garnish with mint leaves, raspberries and sliced cucumber.

This little guy can be a bit boozy, so stretch it out with some sparkling water if you so desire (I tend to make everything sparkly, I mean it's way more fun right?).

A delicious Prime Daiquiri on the left and a glass of Endless Summer Punch on the right.


Oh! And in the interest of keeping things moving, my good friend Nick Jarrett of The Franklin (Death & Co. outpost in Philly) will be posting today about the recent Punch Party in Philadelphia.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Introduction - Who doesn't like a nice glass of punch in their mouth?

I love punch. There I said it. You've always thought it but you were ashamed to admit it. Go ahead. Shout it from a roof top. I LOVE PUNCH!

Feels pretty good doesn't it?

I make punch for a living. Well, not just punch, I make all sorts of intoxicating libations. But what I love most about bartending at a fine establishment is making punch. Not just any Ye Ole Punch mind you (though there's nothing wrong with a classic Planter's Punch or Fish House Punch) but off-the-cuff creations. I won't bore you with the details, that's what the rest of the blog is for, but punch lets you experiment with ingredients and build upon flavors on the fly in a way that creating cocktails doesn't quite allow.

Making punch is a lot like cooking. You can add one thing, taste, tweak, add more, spice, taste, tweak, etc. Cocktails are more akin to baking in all it's exacting chemistry -- you mix it all together, "bake" it over ice and see what comes out. Sometimes it's absolutely glorious. Most of the time it's not. There's something just so damned organic and fervent about the whole punch making business. And forget the stuffiness of it all. Punch is fun and punk and insane and wild and well all that other stuff because, after all, it's about partying.

In the coming posts we will talk about how to make a good punch, how to fix a bad punch, some great classics and new favorites from great bars and bartenders, and some new ideas here and there. I expect a lot of great contributors will add more content than I could dream, and I hope this becomes a repository for recipes that otherwise might be forgotten. A sort of punch sanctuary where punches of all types can run wild and dream of chasing cats or whatever it is punches do in their dreams.

I'm glad you love punch as much as I do. Go ahead, drink a glass of punch. Feels pretty good doesn't it?

I'll leave you with this little tid bit that's, well, in a word - badass (from Wikipedia):

There is a college tradition at Jesus College in Oxford that a famous silver-gilded punch bowl will be presented to anyone who can meet two challenges. The first is to put arms around the bowl at its widest point; the second is to drain the bowl of strong punch (10 imperial gallons or 45 L). The bowl measures 5 feet 2 inches (1.6 m) at its widest point, and so the first challenge has only been accomplished rarely; the second challenge has not been met.

I'm not positive this is the exact punch bowl at Jesus College, but I'm sure it's similar.