Holiday Buzz: Punch Bowl Cocktails for Your New Year’s Eve Soirée

Australian bartenders and cocktail specialists share their favourite punch recipes for the holiday season.

Article by Victoria Pearson

Ester Drinks PunchPhotography by Hugh O'Brien, courtesy Ester Drinks.

The martini – ice cold, clear, potent – is in the midst of a renaissance. Historically the drink of choice for long-lunching corporates dining at smoke-filled steak joints, martinis are now a regular fixture on happy hour menus, TikTok feeds, and even served as the inspiration behind recently opened Bar Planet venue concept.

The negroni has had a similarly popular ascent in recent years, with the addition of prosecco stirring its name into the forefront of our cultural lexicon. Though natural wines and hard seltzers are inarguably essential beverages of the 2020s, a quick revision of cocktails that captured the drinking masses over the past 10 years (think espresso martinis, margaritas, old-fashioneds – we’ll thank “Mad Men” for that one) share a common favour for precision. From ingredients to execution, glassware and garnishes, exactitude at small scale is what makes them great.

Using this metric, punch – a bowl of fruit-driven booze designed to satiate en masse – doesn’t possess quite the same culture cachet. A shame, considering its innate festiveness. A punch bowl’s size makes it the ultimate group-friendly formula, while fruit, spices and fizz enhance the merrymaking atmosphere. Jared Plummer, co-founder of The Whisky Mill and general manager of Sweet&Chilli Drinks Agency, says the key to a great punch is “one part spirit, two parts tea, juice, water or carbonated mix, and then a little each of sugar, sour and spice”. Large ice cubes (a silicon mould or any bigger container will work) are another trick for a truly elevated punch experience. “Large ice will melt slower and keep the punch cold. You can have smaller ice cubes for guests separately in a bowl to serve in individual cups.”

In an effort to shed the ‘daggy’ or ‘retro’ moniker that often plagues punch, T Australia asked bartenders and cocktail experts to share their favourite recipes for the summer season.

Glenlevit punch
Photography courtesy Glenlevit.

Caribbean Reserve Punch “Topper” by Josh Inbari, Glenlevit Brand Manager

[Punch is] the perfect solution when you’re in a hurry. One of the hardest things when hosting brunch is having to get up and make drinks all the time, a punch makes everyone happy (especially the host!). I love the Caribbean Reserve punch recipe for two reasons. The first being the summery, fruity taste that makes you feel like you’re on holiday. The second is we actually recommend making it non-alcoholic and allowing your guests to add in their own Caribbean Reserve, so they can decide how it is best enjoyed. For those not drinking, they still get to join in on the fun! It’s also very pretty to look at.

400ml Apple Juice
80ml Coconut Water
120ml Sweet Oloroso Sherry 120ml Lemon Juice
Edible flowers, pomegranate seeds and lemon wedges in a punch bowl

Top up with The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve once in glass.

The Festive Punch by Jared Plummer, co-founder The Whisky Mill / general manager Sweet&Chilli Drinks Agency

With a long history, the punch has travelled the world and through many iterations. It’s a great way to welcome guests into your bar, served promptly with a small cup in hand, you immediately relax your guests into your bar. This [recipe] is easily transported into the home and is a real centre piece and talking point amongst a feast for the holiday season. The benefit to serving punch is that almost all of the work can be done in the preparation, leaving a couple of finishing touches as guests arrive, allowing you to host and leave guests to serve themselves and come together around the punch bowl to sip a delicious drink over a conversation.

Peel of 4 lemons + 200ml of lemon juice
3/4 cup of coconut sugar
700ml of bourbon of your choice
1.5L chilled coconut water
170gms tinned passionfruit
Whole nutmeg
4 whole passionfruit

The day before:

Add into a sealable jar: peel of four lemons (use a potato peeler and aim to leave behind as much of the white pith as possible) and coconut sugar

Shake around and leave overnight with the lid on

Juice the lemons separately and store in a sealed bottle in the fridge

The day of:

Add 200ml fresh lemon juice to the lemon peel and coconut sugar, reseal and shake the jar until it’s dissolved

Pour mixture (including the peels) into a 4-5 litre bowl for serving, and then add bourbon of your choice, tinned passionfruit and chilled coconut water

Pick a bunch of mint, wash well and put the leaves and sprigs into a damp tea towel or paper towel to keep fresh

15 minutes before guests arrive:

Add the large block of ice to the punch bowl

Grate half the whole nutmeg over the top

Cut open fresh passionfruit and float on top

Add a handful of mint leaves and place the sprigs in the passionfruit husk

Ester Gin Punch by William Oxenham, Ester Drinks creator

Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of a big punch bowl filled with delicious drink and a huge cube of ice, the fact that a punch can take care of the first round of drinks for your party, gives you time to welcome everyone and have a chat. This is the perfect punch for summer as it’s made from gin, with a delicious citrus and cucumber lift. Fresh and light! It will even impress those mates of yours who think they know more about drinks than you do…

Serves 10 (adjust to suit numbers)

300ml Ester Dry Gin
150ml Bianco vermouth
150ml Fresh lime juice
150ml Simple syrup
300ml Strained cucumber juice
400ml Continental Platter Prosecco
300ml Strangelove Lime and Jalapeno Soda

Chill all except sparkling and soda in a jug over ice.

Strain into your punch bowl over a large block of Bare Bones Ice.

Top with soda and sparkling.

Garnish with lime wheels, borage flowers, red leaf sorrel and cucumber ribbons.

Serve in your favourite punch bowl, with your best mates on the side.