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Punch is the ultimate party drink. The very first punch cocktails were designed for sharing – from barrels, bowls and even fountains – and the Rum Punch has been a party favorite for over 400 years.
Punch dates back to at least the early 1600s, making it the grandfather of modern cocktails. From the Rum Punch and the Gin Punch through to the Planter’s Punch and the Bombay Punch, punch recipes abound today. Many claim that the word “punch” comes from the Hindi word for five – “panch”. This serves as a reminder that the classic punch cocktail is a balance of five ingredients – sour (citrus), sweet (sugar), strong (spirit), weak (water) and spice.
A punch can be based on any spirit, whether it’s distilled from grains or grapes. But by far the most popular punch styles today are the rum punch, the gin punch and, increasingly, the fruit punch.
From the fruity Reggae Rum Punch to the classic Planter’s Punch and Fish House Punch, Rum Punch is still the most popular iteration around. It was the original punch, most likely created to soften the flavor of the crude rums first produced in the Caribbean, and there is something about the heft of a good rum that pairs perfectly with sweet and sour components.
A lighter alternative to the wealth of punches based on dark spirits, the Gin Punch may well have inspired James Pimm to create his iconic Pimm’s No.1 Cup. The contemporary Gin Punch blends a wealth of different fruit flavors with the botanicals of gin, while the Pimm’s Punch takes James Pimm’s creation to a different level.
The first punches were simple affairs, with spirits and spices adding complexity. But today, an abundance of fruits, juices, purees, liqueurs and syrups are available for concocting your own punches.
Once you’ve got your recipe down, you can serve your punch in a silver or stainless steel bowl for a great party centerpiece. And by batching up a large punch ahead of time, you’re free to enjoy the evening without having to play bartender all night.