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Joe Coleman enjoys a glass of his Tea-Ki Punch. (Credit: David Benthal Photos)

As a bartender, I find that a punch bowl is a fantastic way to bring everyone together. It’s like a water cooler at the office (back when that was actually a thing). 

But bringing people together isn’t its only purpose. It also keeps a host from getting stuck behind a bar.

Instead, whip up a batch from one of these three recipes and go back to being the life of your own party.

Tea-ki Punch

  • 1 liter Plantation Dark Rum
  • 250mL Velvet Falernum
  • 500mL pineapple juice
  • 1 liter Tazo Passion Tea
  • 500mL fresh lime juice
  • Garnish the bowl with pineapple rings and ground nutmeg.

Tiki can get complicated and labor intensive very quickly, but after over a decade of making drinks I’ve learned that batched drinks can be flavorful and fun without prepping a ton of ingredients and syrups. I really like Plantation’s Dark Rum for this punch. It has a good blend of spiced tiki “funk” to it. 

Velvet Falernum is the Caribbean in a bottle, and there’s a lot to love about pairing this liqueur with any rum.

Tea is one of my go-to ingredients that can play a subtle yet important role in the layers and flavor of a drink. Hibiscus tea is tart and helps balance out all the sweet.

You can brew your own, but the ready-made Tazo Passion Tea works just fine for this recipe and has a few other citrusy flavors. I’m adding a little more sweet with some pineapple juice. If you want to do it right you can chop up and blend a fresh pineapple, then pour it through a fine mesh strainer. Doing this will also add a light, fluffy texture to the drink. Best to pick up two pineapples and cut the other into rings to soak in the punch. Lastly, but just as important, is fresh squeezed lime for your main citrus. A few cut lime wheels will also add to the aesthetics of the punch. Add some ice to your mix to keep it cold, but also for a little dilution. A normal cocktail will have about 20% dilution when shaken. This mix will produce almost a gallon of punch, so about 500mL (1/2 liter) of ice would be perfect. As the ice melts, the drink will mellow a bit, but still be ready to serve, even if all the ice melted.

Holiday Ponche

  • 1 gallon water
  • 4 local apples (a few sweet and a few tart)
  • 10-15 teaspoons of loose green tea
  • 2 large guavas
  • 1 large orange
  • 4-6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar

Chop and slice all the fruit, but keep a few pieces to the side for garnishing the bowl. Bring all the ingredients to a boil and then cover and simmer for about a half-hour. Stir to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Pour through a fine mesh strainer, pressing the fruit to extract a little more liquid. I usually spring for something a little higher end to enjoy with my toddies, so I did the same with the ponche. Ron Zacapa 23 Rum with a teaspoon of local honey finished this drink nicely. I’m able to store the remaining ponche in a sealed container in the refrigerator with plans to heat another cup tomorrow. As the colder months approach, I find myself making a simple toddy more often than not. The Mexican Ponche is a traditional holiday drink made in high volume, similar to a nice warm toddy. Each family would probably have their own recipe, and there is no shortage of shared recipes across the internet. The base starts by heating fruit and spices of your choice with brown sugar until the fruit is softened and the sugar dissolved. Then add a splash of your favorite rum or brandy when served. I like this drink because the spirit is added afterwards; this way, anyone not caring or able to imbibe can also join in the celebration. 

North Fork New Year:

  • 350mL  floral gin
  • 250mL  sparkling wine
  • 125mL Matchbook Distilling’s Nowhere Triple Sec
  • 175mL  fresh lemon juice
  • 125mL  simple syrup
  • 250mL soda water
  • Garnish the bowl with lemon and orange wheels, grated nutmeg and a few dashes of aromatic bitters

I don’t want to get too ahead of myself here, but I’m the one who is usually tasked with the holiday drinks anyway. For New Year’s Eve, what better way to celebrate than with something local and bubbly? I’m thinking of a classic Champagne punch with a North Fork twist. Sparkling Pointe’s Brut or Croteaux’s Merlot Cuveé Rosé would both be a more than delicious start. A few months back I had the pleasure of enjoying Matchbook Distilling’s “make your own gin” experience. This would be over the top, but a soft floral gin is best and will also pair well with Matchbook’s amazing Nowhere Triple Sec.