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TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Punch Making Tips

You don’t need a punch bowl: You can serve punch in a large pitcher. Photo courtesy Belvedere vodka.


A bowl of punch adds a festive touch to a gathering, from a sophisticated cocktail party to a barbeque. A bartender can serve the punch and garnish each glass; or it can be casual self-service.

Punch is easy to make. Essentially, five or so ingredients are mixed directly in the punch bowl or pitcher.

We have some tips, below, to make perfect punch. But first, here’s a quick look at the history of punch.


Punch is a general term for a broad assortment of mixed drinks, made with or without alcohol. While punch generally contains fruit or fruit juice, fruit isn’t essential. An elegant punch bowl is not required: A pitcher is fine, and in many cases, it’s more practical.

Punch was discovered in India by the British sailors of the East India Company. The concept was brought to England in the early 17th century. From there it spread to other countries.


The word “punch” derives from the Hindi word, “panch.” In India, panch was made from five different ingredients: sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices and an alcoholic spirit. The word for “five” in Sanskrit is panchan; hence the name.

1. PUNCH BOWL VS. PITCHER. Most people use a punch bowl so rarely, they don’t want to invest in one. But you can find inexpensive plastic punch bowls at party stores, which can be repurposed for salad and keeping other drinks on ice at other parties, picnics and barbeques. Here’s a handsome plastic punch bowl with a modern, squared-off shape.

2. GLASSES. You don’t need special punch cups; use rocks glasses or the plastic equivalent.

3. ALCOHOL VS. NO ALCOHOL If you’re having a mixed crowd—drinkers and non-drinkers—make the punch without alcohol and put bottles of alcohol with shot glasses and stirrers next to the punch bowl. Guests can add the amount of alcohol they like.

4. LARGE BLOCK OF ICE. For a punch bowl, block ice is the best option. It melts slowly, keeps the punch colder for longer and reduces the dilution. Here are two ways to make it (24 hours in advance):

  • The Balloon Trick. Make block ice by filling a balloon with water; tie off the balloon and place it in a bowl in the freezer the night before.
  • The Bowl Trick. Freeze the ice block in a medium plastic or metal bowl, Tupperware container or whatever you have (an empty jumbo yogurt tub, for example). Ideally, you’ll have a round form with a diameter several inches smaller than the punch bowl, so there‘s room to scoop up punch with the ladle. Run warm water over the bottom of the bowl, or let it sit in warm water, for a minute until it loosens.

    5. TASTY ICE. If you don’t like your tap water, use spring water to make the ice.

    6. CHILLED INGREDIENTS. Your punch will stay colder longer if you the ingredients—alcohol, soda, water—for several hours before serving. The more chilled the liquids, the less the ice will melt to cool down the punch.

    7. ASSEMBLE ON THE TABLE. A full punch bowl is heavy to carry, and can slosh over the rim as you carry it. Do the smart thing and place the empty punch bowl on the serving table; then assemble the ingredients.

    8. ADD BUBBLES AT THE END. If your recipe includes soda, sparkling wine or other carbonated beverage, add it at the last minute—ideally when the first guests arrive.

    9. MAKE GARNISHES IN ADVANCE. Every punch bowl needs some garnish, at a minimum, citrus wheels. Mint sprigs or rosemary sprigs and berries add more visual interest. Except for berries, prepare the garnishes ahead of time (the day before is fine) and wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve the punch. Berries should be rinsed shortly before serving.


    You can make alcohol-free punch and let guests add their own. Photo courtesy GranGala.


    10. REFRESH. If it’s a long event, you’ll need to refresh the punch. Sparkling punches will go flat after two hours or so; fully melted ice will dilute the punch. Have a second set of ingredients ready to assemble. Or, serve just half of the punch at the beginning of the party, and add the remainder later.


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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