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How to: Make a Festive Cold Weather Punch

With fall festivities on the go and Christmas on the horizon, it's a great time to invite folks in from the cold...and offer them a warming drink.  A festive punch is a great way to tipple with crowd and you can pretty much adapt any of your favourite seasonal cocktails to the punchbowl. Here's how: 

First, figure out approximately how many guests you're expecting and how many servings you want for each guest. A good rule of thumb is two to three servings over a three hour period—per person. Multiply the number of guests x the number of servings x the number of ingredients in your single cocktail recipe. 

Clear as mud? Here's an example. 

Using Saveur's two-ingredient recipe for Szarlotka (Polish Apple Pie Cocktail), let's do some math for a three-hour party for ten people. 

10 guests x 3 servings each = 30 servings

The recipe calls for 1.5 ounces of Żubrówka vodka plus 2 - 3 ounces of unfiltered apple juice (to taste)

30 x 1.5 oz of vodka = 45 oz
30 x 2.5 oz of unflitered apple juice + more to taste = 75 + oz

And as this is a cold cocktail, we mustn't forget to factor in ice and the ice melt. Punches aren't meant to be quite as potent as a single cocktail, so allowing for a bit of dilution is a good idea—meaning, you don't need to add extra alcohol to make up for any melted water in your punch. If can plan ahead, make a couple of ice rings. They'll melt slower than ice cubes and look smashing. You can buy an ice ring mould or simply freeze water in a bundt pan—the more ornate the better. Make your ring a day ahead and add cranberries, orange slices or sprigs of rosemary to the water. The fruit and herbs look fabulous in the ice and are released into your punch as the ring melts. Add the ice ring or cubes just as guests arrive. Easy-peasy, right? 

Here are a few more tips to help you prepare a fabulous festive punch:  

Fill pitchers of premixed punch so you can easily refill the punch bowl. It's a good idea to make one more pitcher than you think you'll need. Or maybe have a bottle of wine on hand in case you underestimate your guests. 

Heavy spirited cocktails aren't ideal for a punch. They're too boozy and tend to go flat in a punch bowl. 

Keep bowls of garnishes near the punch bowl, so guests can serve themselves. 

Feel free to experiment! Punches are pretty forgiving. A bottle of red wine, brandy, some autumnal quince or apple-infused simple syrup, orange slices and warming spices to taste makes for a gorgeous fall libation. Warm gently in a slow cooker, careful not to cook off all the alcohol and serve. 

Make a non-alcoholic version of your punch and label it clearly. Those abstaining will appreciate having a special drink to toast in the season.

You don't have to use a traditional punch bowl and matching glasses. Really, any non-reactive vessel that holds punch and looks pretty will do. Make sure you have mugs for hot punch and glass for cold and encourage guests to re-use their cups to save on clean up.