How to Make the Perfect Holiday Punch

Fruit adds a festive touch to a holiday punch. See more pictures of holiday noshes.
Fruit adds a festive touch to a holiday punch. See more pictures of holiday noshes.

Special gatherings call for special beverages that can feed a crowd, and nothing makes a buffet or party more festive than punch. The original idea for a blended beverage probably comes to us from Eastern Asia, and the word itself may derive from the Sanskrit word pañca which means five, referring to the original number of ingredients [source: 2020].

Today, punch can mean almost any blended beverage. Although you may be most familiar with iced, fruit-based punch, cream-based punches -- both hot and cold -- aren't uncommon. In fact, some brews, such as eggnog punch, can be downright festive around the holidays. The perfect holiday punch may be one you remember from your childhood or one from a great party you attended, but whatever your preference, a little planning can help make your holiday punch more flavorful and enticing to your guests.


Preparing and Serving Basic Punch

Make sure to use the freshest ingredients in your punch, and to make sure the punch doesn't lose its kick, avoid using ice cubes in cold punch recipes. Instead, make a batch of punch ahead of time and freeze it into decorative shapes to use as a flavored cooling agent -- there are any number of molds you can use, from simple ice cube trays to ring molds. You can insert some creativity here by incorporating whole or sliced fruits or fresh herbs, such as mint, into your mold to add a splash of color. To help keep your punch colder longer, chill your punchbowl. If you have space in the refrigerator, that's great, but if not, try filling the bowl with ice cubes to cool it down and then remove them at serving time.

Using a traditional punchbowl with matching cups can be an attractive and easy way to go -- the cups are relatively small, helping to keep portion sizes in line, and most punchbowls add sparkle to the festivities. Shoot for four-ounce servings, and plan on one to two servings per hour for each guest [source: Dummies]

If you're serving a cream-based or heated punch, don't forget to set it off with an attractive garnish or topping. Whipped cream, freshly ground nutmeg, chocolate spoons or cinnamon sticks will make your punch a merry treat.


Should You Add Spirits?

Adding alcohol to punch can be tricky. Children, pregnant women, nondrinkers and designated drivers won't be able to partake, and you'll have to come up with an alternative for them. One option is to keep alcohol on the side, and let guests decide for themselves whether they want their punch alcoholic or not. This can work well if the amount or type of alcohol in your punch can vary based on personal taste, such as adding brandy or rum to eggnog punch, or putting a little more libation in a champagne punch for some extra warmth and good cheer.

Of course, if your signature punch just has to have alcohol in it, you may want to consider making another non-alcoholic punch variety for the teetotalers in the group and keeping it on hand. Whichever way you go, make sure your guests know if there's alcohol in your punch.

With so many flavorful and unique punch recipes out there, you're bound to find the perfect celebratory brew for your gathering. For more information on how to make a holiday punch, see the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • 2020 Site. "Punch." A History of Alcohol in America. Undated. 12/6/09
  • Collins, Holly and Thomas Randleman. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Entertaining." Alpha Books. 1996
  • "How Much to Cook Up to Serve for Thanksgiving Dinner." Undated. 12/8/09.
  • Isle, Ray. "Punch to Make Holiday Parties Perfect." CBS News - Early Show. 12/20/08. 12/06/09
  • LUPEC. "A Brief History of Punch." Undated. 12/6/09.
  • What's Cooking America. "How to Make Eggnog Punch." Undated. 12/08/09.