On The Table Set, I am referred to as the "punch guy." So for our holiday party I knew I really had to step it up and make something special. In lieu of a default sparkling wine punch with cranberries and lemon wheels I delved further, exploring old English Christmas punches and colonial tea-based punches. I came up with this Yuletide Christmas Punch, borrowing from the best and creating a mellow, dry, spicy and earthy rum punch that warms the soul while it quenches.
Yuletide Christmas Punch
These ingredients should make two healthy batches. Note that the strong black tea and demerara syrup can be made well in advance, and all ingredients chilled until the punch is mixed. (The ice mold is not meant to chill the ingredients as much as retain their cool temperature.)
1 bottle (750ml) dark rum
1 bottle (750ml) spiced rum
1 bottle (750ml) brandy
1 bottle (750ml) dry Lambrusco
2 liters club soda
1 quart strong black tea
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups demerara sugar
3 small oranges or tangerines
One day ahead, fill a bundt pan with water, cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
Prepare strong tea by bringing a quart of water to a near boil. Pour into a heat-proof vessel with 8 black tea bags and cinnamon stick. Set aside to steep and cool.
Return saucepan to stove and begin warming a pint of water over medium heat.
Rub a lemon in a non-reactive dish of sugar until the sugar takes the color from the lemon, absorbing its oils. Add a splash of hot water and stir to make a paste, or 'sherbet'. Set aside.
Add 2 cups demerara sugar to the saucepan and stir until completely dissolved and syrup just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
Using the tip of a knife, score and stud oranges with cloves to make pomanders. Wrap in foil and place in the oven at 200 degrees for ten minutes or until fragrant. Remove from the oven.
In a punch bowl combine exactly half the bottles of Lambrusco, rums, brandy, tea and juices. Stir in the sherbet, and demerara syrup to taste, approximately half of the batch.
Remove decorative ice mold from freezer. Place bundt pan into a bowl of warm water to loosen the ice from the mold. Carefully lower ice mold (or block ice) into punch base, and top with one liter chilled club soda. Garnish with pomanders, fresh tarragon sprigs, star anise, and a generous dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.
When the punch requires refreshment, add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.