5@5 - Pack a punch this Mother's Day
May 11th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's Note: Lara Creasy is the Beverage Director at The Optimist and Oyster Bar at The Optimist in Atlanta, Georgia. She's also the  beverage director at JCT Kitchen & Bar in Atlanta and No. 246 in Decatur, Georgia.

Modern Americans think of punch as a quick, cheap beverage to throw together and serve at a baby shower, with ginger ale and sherbet on the list of potential ingredients.

But, punch is actually a cocktail of great historical significance, hugely popular in Colonial America and 18th century Europe. Many recipes from that era survive to this day, and are still delicious.

Originating in India, punch actually derives its name from the Hindu word "panch," which means five. Classic punch always has five ingredients or elements, and it can actually be quite boozy, complex and wonderful.

If you’re brainstorming ideas of something fun to serve at your Mother’s Day brunch this weekend, or by the pool this summer, just keep these five basic building blocks in mind, and let your imagination go wild.

If your friends and family snicker, just remind them that Benjamin Franklin drank punch.

The Five Elements of Punch

1. Spirit
Unless you are in college, and your version of “punch” is made in a sports cooler or a garbage can, there is no reason to use inferior spirits in your punch.

Starting with a quality base spirit is the foundation of any good cocktail, and punch is a cocktail after all.

Consider making your sangria, which is technically a punch, with a high quality brandy, and maybe a wine that doesn’t come in a jug.

2. Sugar
Many people are afraid of using sugar in their drinks, thinking that it will just be too sweet. Sugar serves a basic purpose in almost any cocktail: it balances acid.

When making punch, don’t just think about basic white sugar. Although it has its place. There are many more options to choose from: honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, molasses, even sweet liqueurs like triple sec or elderflower liqueur.

Each type of sweetener adds a different depth of flavor and each complements the base spirit in a different way.

3. Citrus
Citrus juice provides the acid in a punch that the sweetener balances. Any citrus will work, depending on your desired result. Lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange all lend entirely different flavor profiles and different levels of acidity.

4. Spice
Being that punch was originally an Indian creation, the spice part makes sense. It can literally mean spice, such as adding cardamom to a grapefruit, gin and rosewater punch, or it can mean bitters, as in adding Angostura to a tequila-pineapple punch.

Spice can also be a tea used to infuse the base spirit, or a cinnamon stick used to garnish a warm fall punch. The possibilities are endless.

5. Water
Water is essential to any cocktail, but it’s especially important to punch, which is designed to be ready to serve straight from a bowl or pitcher with no additional shaking or stirring with ice to dilute it.

Water can be added to punch in the form of actual water, or it can be another element of the recipe, such as tea, a non-citrus fruit juice, a soda for sparkle, or simply a slowly melting ice block.

The purpose of water is to keep those spirits, sugar and citrus from knocking your socks off, and to make them more palatable.

Garnish with fresh, seasonal fruits and herbs. You can’t go wrong.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

Filed under: 5@5 • Holidays • Mother's Day • Mother's Day • Sip • Think


soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. ORANDO

    HERE ARE A COUPLE OF PUNCH RECIPES THAT I HAVE HAD SUCCESS WITH:

    THE "GOOMBEY SMASH" FROM MISS EMILY'S BLUE BEE BAR, GREEN TURTLE, BAHAMAS.

    1 QUART JAMAICAN DARK RUM
    1 FIFTH CUERVO 151
    1 LARGE CAN DOLE UN-SWEETENED PINEAPPLE JUICE

    POUR INGREDIENTS INTO GALLON JUG, SHAKE WELL, SERVE OVER LOTS OF ICE, ENJOY

    THE "FRENCH SEVENTY FIVE" PUNCH.

    1 FIFTH BRANDY
    1PINT ORANGE LIQUOR
    6 BOTTLES CHAMPAGNE

    IN YOUR FREEZER, MAKE AN ICE BLOCK OF LAYERED ORANGE SLICES.
    PLACE BLOCK IN PUNCH BOWL, ADD OTHER INGREDIENTS AND SERVE. ENJOY

    May 12, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  2. Lifelong Vegetarian

    Use frozen fruit as ice cubes. Works well and gives something to snack on.

    May 11, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
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