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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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