Packing a punch - Issue 125 - Magazine | Monocle

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The origins of punch are as sticky as some of the creations that bear its name. But our ode to this dated but delightful staple is about more than swigging without thought and passing out in a friend’s broom cupboard. Instead it’s about sharing something. No, not online images of wide-brimmed bowls and fruit-strewn cups, but experiences. It’s about lowering a cup into the colourful elixir – not knowing the strength and not really caring either – because it’s about having a bit of fun.

The word itself could stem from the Sanskrit for “five”, denoting the main ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and tea or spices. These are items that have endured pretty much undisturbed to today. Then again, it could just as easily come from the English word “puncheon”, a measure of alcohol borne in barrels by ship in days of yore.

These days the British riff on punch conjures images of sticky-fingered picnics where gallons of Pimm’s or vodka are flecked with fruit and a liberal dash of something fizzy. That said, the premise has regional variations galore. In the mid-19th century an Aussie version (big on lime, porter, rum and brandy) called Blow My Skull was popular, while in Korea to this day there’s sujeonggwa, a version made with persimmon, ginger and cinnamon. That’s all before we mention bål in Sweden, warm ponche in Mexico or Punsch in Germany.

There are differences but similarities too: a certain fruity sweetness and penchant for spices that enliven the senses and mask the sharpness of the doubtlessly high ABV. And all of this means that there’s no one right recipe to achieve the original or perfect mix – hence the several we’ve supplied. Bottoms up.

Peachy Pimm’s

The classic one

Serves 12

4 large, very ripe white or yellow peaches
500g strawberries, hulled and sliced
600ml Pimm’s
200ml peach schnapps (optional)
2 large oranges, sliced into half moons
4 handfuls of ice
2 ltrs Fentimans rose lemonade
Soda water (optional)
Few sprigs of mint, leaves only

Cut the peaches in half, remove the stones and slice thinly, saving a few for the garnish. Put the peaches and most of the strawberry slices into a bowl and add the Pimm’s and schnapps (if using). Cover and leave for a few hours in the fridge. When ready to serve, add the orange slices. Tip the mix into a punch bowl and add the ice. Top up with the rose lemonade and soda water (if using). Garnish with some strawberry and peach slices and mint leaves.

Margarita all-day punch

The crowd-pleasing one

Serves 12

1.2kg ripe strawberries, hulled
8 tsps sugar
Few sprigs of mint, leaves only
6 handfuls of ice
300ml triple sec
600ml tequila
8 limes, juiced
600ml lemonade
600ml soda water
12 lime slices

Roughly chop 12 strawberries and put aside. Put the rest in a blender, add the sugar and whizz to a pulp. Add the mint and mix until it is flecked with green. Tip into a punch bowl and add 4 handfuls of ice. Add the triple sec, tequila and lime juice and stir. Serve over more ice and top up with lemonade and soda water. Garnish with lime slices and the remaining strawberries.

Gin Sangria

The decadent one

Serves 12

500ml gin
2 bottles crisp white wine
1.2 ltrs freshly pressed apple juice
4 green apples, cored and sliced thinly
1/2 cucumber, sliced into half moons
6 handfuls of ice
1.2 ltrs elderflower pressé
Few sprigs of edible flowers or mint

Mix the gin, wine and apple juice in a punch bowl. Add the apples and cucumber as well as 4 handfuls of ice. Top with elderflower pressé at the last moment so it doesn’t lose its fizz. Serve over ice. Decorate with edible flowers or sprigs of mint.

Cuban rum punch

The fun one

Serves 12

For the ginger syrup
200ml water
100g sugar
4 tbsps grated ginger

700g pineapple, cubed
800ml Havana Club rum
700ml fresh orange juice
4 tbsps ginger syrup
4 limes (juiced and zested)
6 handfuls of ice
1 ltr ginger ale
12 orange slices
12 cocktail sticks

For the syrup: put the water, sugar and ginger into a pan. Cook on a low heat without stirring for 5 minutes. Turn off and cool. For the punch: in a blender whizz most of the pineapple with a splash of water. Tip into a punch bowl and add the rum, orange juice, ginger syrup, lime juice and zest, and 4 handfuls of ice. Top with ginger ale and serve over ice (add more rum if you like). Stir with a cocktail stick loaded with orange slices and the leftover pineapple cubes.

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