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NYE Punch-Out

Usher in the new year with festive holiday punches.

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Lots of us are ready to pop Champagne corks on New Year's Eve—a tradition that isn't going anywhere soon. However, celebrations like this one are exceptionally well-suited to punch-type drinks, especially when there's a crowd. The self-serve aspect of the holiday concoction means that hosts and hostesses can focus on other essential tasks, like keeping Uncle Milt away from the tequila. Here are a few of my favorite punch bowls, including non-alcoholic.

While serving as bar manager at San Francisco's Rickhouse bar, Erick Castro created his excellent Champagne Holiday Punch. It calls for a Creole Shrubb, which is an orange-flavored rum. If you can't find it, substitute with a similar rum or a liqueur like Mandarin Napoleon. Likewise, you can trade out the genever for London dry gin. Combine 6 ounces of fresh lemon juice with 10 dashes of angostura bitters, 12 ounces of genever, 4 ounces of simple syrup and 4 ounces of Creole Shrubb. Refrigerate for a couple of hours until chilled. When ready to serve, gently stir in 4 ounces of Champagne or other sparkling wine, 8 ounces of club soda, large ice cubes and pods of star anise and pineapple slices to garnish.

Anyone who's ever sipped a screwdriver knows the affinities that vodka and orange juice have for each other. Here is a Vodka Punch I adapted from the Big Girls Small Kitchen blog (BigGirlsSmallKitchen.com). It'll serve an army. Ideally, you'll want to use fresh-squeezed orange, lemon and grapefruit juice; but in a pinch, you can use store-bought. In a large punch bowl, combine 3 cups of plain vodka (perhaps from local Kid Curry); 3 cups of orange-flavored vodka; 4 cups (total) of fresh lemon, orange and grapefruit juices; 1 quart of seltzer; 2 cups of simple syrup steeped with a handful of mint leaves; 2 cups of sparkling wine; 3 tablespoons of orange bitters (like Beehive Spiced Orange Cocktail Bitters); and 6 cups of ice. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Both kids and adults love this non-alcoholic punch recipe. The ginger ale gives it some celebratory zest, in lieu of having to use sparkling wine. To make Pretty Pink Punch, begin by dissolving 2 tablespoons of sugar in 3 cups of cold water in a punch bowl. Then add two 64-ounce bottles of chilled cranberry-raspberry juice, a 46-ounce can of chilled pineapple juice and a 12-ozunce can of thawed frozen pink lemonade concentrate. You can do all of this ahead of time, and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Before serving, stir in 1 liter of ginger ale and garnish with lemon slices or raspberries.

It's not technically a punch, but I love Rosé Champagne Cocktails, and they're not too far off. It's a drink that's elegant in its simplicity. For two cocktails, slice a sugar cube in half with a serrated or sharp, thin knife. Place half a sugar cube into the bottom of each of two Champagne flutes (I like to use old-fashioned coupes). Add four dashes of aromatic bitters (like Bitters Lab Aromatic) to each glass. Then top them off with rosé. Add a lemon twist garnish and you're ready to rock.

For whiskey fans, this Citrus-Irish Whiskey Punch recipe—which first appeared in Bon Appétit—is a must-try. It calls for oleo-saccharum, which adds a kick to the punch; you can find easy recipes for it online. In a large bowl or pitcher, combine 1 and two-thirds cups of Irish whiskey, 1 and two-thirds cups of strong black tea, half a cup of fresh clementine or orange juice, half a cup of fresh lemon juice, half a cup of oleo-saccharum, seven dashes of aromatic bitters, and 1 and a half teaspoons of freshly grated nutmeg. Chill for 3-8 hours, then strain into a serving bowl. Garnish with lemon and orange slices, and serve over ice with freshly grated nutmeg.

Happy New Year!

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