Bubbly or brewed, there are plenty of spicy and sweet libations to raise a toast to the holidays, friendship, or the end of a contentious year known as 2016. So whether you’re getting together with your besties for a large-format libation or soothing your soul with your hands wrapped around a steaming mug with a history as fascinating as the centuries-old tipple inside, here are some holiday punches guaranteed to punctuate your December.
Fools Gold, Arbella, Chicago
The Three Wise Men may have brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but at Arbella, it’s all about Fools Gold. The punch, made with mezcal, pineapple, honey, and amaro liqueur is complex — all at once smoky, sweet, and bitter. Head bartender Eric Trousdale says he at first wanted to go bright and citrusy for the season of celebration, but he opted to combine a few of his favorite mixers for something a little darker in a nod to the holiday season’s limited daylight. It’s the perfect way to warm up, with both small and large formats available in a bright copper pineapple mug with a pineapple garnish. Make a reservation at Arbella.
1860 Punch, Waypoint, Cambridge, Massachusetts
One of the most iconic parts of the Christmas Story includes the Star of Bethlehem, but at Boston’s new hit smash Waypoint, that star comes in a glass in the form of star anise. Bar director Seth Freidus serves up a hot circa-1860 rum and brandy punch that he riffed on by adding absinthe, housemade chamomile, and black tea syrup. The tipple is served up in a crystal punch bowl with floating orange peel and star anise garnishes, a nice way to spotlight Waypoint’s more than 20 varieties of absinthe distributed through nifty copper taps. Make a reservation at Waypoint.
Committee, Boston, Massachusetts
If it’s got milk it must be good for you, right? Committee beverage director Peter Szigeti takes that and a whopping 66 other ingredients for a semi-secret recipe that includes five different rums, bourbon, cognac, bitters, spiced cranberry, blood orange, winter cherries, plum, cinnamon, coriander, citrus, and sugar, and adds ouzo into the mix as an ode to Committee’s Greek menu. It’s clarified with milk curd and served up in a milk bottle garnished with a curled lemon peel for some extra zing (does that count as ingredient 68?). Szigeti got his inspiration from classic punches from the 1830s and decided on a milk punch for a little nod to NoLo, where such libations made the top of every holiday drink menu. Make a reservation at Committee.
Liquid Knowledge, Coppin’s Restaurant & Bar, Covington, Kentucky
Perhaps nothing could be cozier than the warmth of ginger, allspice, and clove in your cup — that is unless that cup was handmade in steins designed by Rookwood Pottery, one of the country’s most renowned craft houses since the 1880s. Wrap your hands around craft cocktail Liquid Knowledge, which combines Kentucky’s most famous export — bourbon (Ed. note: Sorry, Colonel Sanders!) — with spices for a variation of the Moscow Mule that also features clove, lavender, and bitters. Even the name is fun, paying homage to the original owner of the building who put money down on one of Kentucky’s other famous exports — a horse named Knowledge — and won big. Make a reservation at Coppin’s Restaurant & Bar.
The Corner Office Restaurant & Martini Bar, Denver, Colorado
Is Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” your favorite Christmas song? Then pony up to the bar at the Corner Office for some tropical vibes courtesy of Eric Liebtag’s rum punch, with three different kinds of rums, brandy, grapefruit, and lemon juices, orgeat almond syrup, cardamaro digestif, and housemade grenadine. Garnished with beautiful — and edible! — flowers, it’s like getting lei’d in a glass. Try it solo for $12 or those feeling thirsty can get four servings for $48. Make a reservation at The Corner Office Restaurant & Martini Bar.