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.
Peruvian Pisco Torentel, Coquette, New Orleans
Coquette’s pisco punch brings a bit of South America to bourbon-famous New Orleans, with Satsuma citrus, lemon juice, benne seed oil, persimmon puree, vermouth, pisco, bitters, nutmeg, and cold chamomile tea. This Garden District 14-seat jewel values focus on local and sustainable, so mixologist Christopher Bain picked the local Louisiana citrus to pair with the notes of fruit, tannin, and grass in the Peruvian Pisco Torentel. Served up in a teacup with a bright-orange hue, it’s the perfect way to punctuate an afternoon sipping with friends. Make a reservation at Coquette.
Punch Three Ways, The Palm Court at The Plaza, New York, New York
What could be a better way to toast the holidays and coming new year than with a bubble-filled bowl? Try three different varieties of punch — Champagne, traditional brandy, or rum—at Manhattan’s tony The Palm Court. Served up in crystal with cups for 6-8, it’s the perfect complement to The Palm’s signature soaring stained-glass dome reminiscent of the original built in 1907. The newly renovated space designed by master architect Thierry Despont brings the grand feel of Central Park indoors, with bespoke furnishings well-suited for business meetings or an evening of craft cocktails by mixologist Brian Van Flandern. Try replacing the classic afternoon tea served year-round by rounding up five of your faves for his holiday tipple. Make a reservation at The Palm Court at The Plaza.
Shine Bright Like a Diamond, Graffiato, Washington, D.C.
Housemade by bar manager Mary Kelly, the Shine Bright Like a Diamond hot spiced apple cider with cloves, star anise, and cinnamon, was inspired by her upbringing in the Finger Lakes and uses hibiscus for an unexpected twist. The seasonal punch features pineapple rum, brandy, lemon, and honey, and is finished with orange whipped cream and a dehydrated blood orange. A perfect complement to fall weather with its combination of citrusy tang and warm baking spices, Shine Bright Like a Diamond is best enjoyed hot by the glass through Christmas. Make a reservation at Graffiato.
Prince Regent’s Punch, Urban Farmer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sharing means caring at Urban Farmer, where the whopping $250 large-format Prince Regent’s Punch kicks up the farm-to-table steakhouse’s “rural chic” ethos a notch. Available as a tableside service, it includes rum, brandy, Seville orange, brut Champagne, and green tea. With the bubbly, it’s the perfect indulgence to celebrate the holidays — or even the coming new year, says head bartender John Williams. “Large-format cocktails are perfect for large parties, whether it’s a celebration or just getting together with friends. Tableside cocktail service is definitely a trend that will continue into 2017, too.” Bring along four to six of your crew to enjoy the beauty of this beast (also available to serve 8-12 for $400). Make a reservation at Urban Farmer.
Punched by an Angel, Del Campo, Washington, D.C.
The angels sing at Del Campo — in the form of the holiday sipper Punched By an Angel. Nearly every menu item here has a grilled, smoked or charred element and the seasonal spirit is no different. Available through Christmas, the cocktail features bourbon smoked with pineapple, lemon juice, and peach bitters. The pineapple garnish is also grilled for another warming touch of fire, created by bar manager Amin Seddiq. Make a reservation at Del Campo.
Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Ty Shell (The Corner Office).