Calgarians rejoice! Patios are open, and barbecue season is here! What better way to celebrate than with punch! Traditionally made from four different parts: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak, punch is a great way to prep ahead of time and enjoy the summer rather than being stuck in the kitchen all night.

One of sour: citrus. There are many different varieties you may use, lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, Meyer lemons, and tangerines to name a few. What is available really depends on the time of year. When picking out citrus look for firm skin and fruit that is heavy for its size. Something that often gets overlooked is the citrus rind. Citrus is usually covered in wax to preserve the fruit and control its ripening. Make sure this wax is washed off, as it does not contribute to the flavour of your punch.

Two of sweet: sugar. Again there are many different sweeteners you may use. White and brown sugars, honey, agave, and maple, all add a sweetness and flavour to balance out the sour. I prefer to make a simple syrup as it tends to dissolve easier into a drink.

To make a basic simple syrup, pick your sweetener of choice. I prefer a 2:1 ratio: 2 parts sugar, 1 part water. In a small pot, slowly heat up the water to a simmer (it is important to not let this boil) and add your sugar to the water. Stir well until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Things get really fun when you flavour your simple syrup.

The addition of fresh herbs, spices or fruits can really vamp up your syrup. If you are flavouring your syrup, I suggest adding your flavouring to the water before adding sugar for better results. Once strained of all large particles, add your sugar and stir well. The possibilities are endless!

Three of strong: spirits. Rum punches date as far back as the 1600s. A ‘cup’, usually a lower alcohol version of punch, was served in England before or after the hunt. The base started as wine or brandy but was modernized with the revolution of the rum punch and the use of Jamaican rum. In recent years, vodka, gin, whiskey and bitters have all been used. At the end of the day it is all about personal preference.

Four of weak: lengtheners. Traditionally tea was used, which adds an amazing complexity of flavour. Any nonalcoholic juice, tea or infused water will do. Playing with the flavours of the first three ingredients can determine which lengthener to use: black tea & bourbon; pineapple juice & rum; tonic & gin. It is all about experimentation. Below are three punches to try this summer!

Summer Sins

  • 1 750 mL bottle gin
  • 1 L pink lemonade
  • 1 cup agave syrup (2 cups hot water, 1 cup agave, stir well)
  • ½-1 cup grapefruit juice, or to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 limes, chopped

In a pitcher or bowl, muddle limes with agave syrup. Add all other ingredients. Stir well. Add ice. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Southern Charm

  • 1 750 mL bottle bourbon
  • 1 L strong peach flavoured black tea, cooled*
  • 1 cup simple syrup, using white sugar juice and peels of three lemons and
  • 1 orange

At the bottom of your punchbowl, muddle citrus rinds and sugar. If possible let this sit for a half hour or so, as it does add some complexity. Add citrus juice, tea, and bourbon. Stir well. Add ice, preferable a large block to keep from over diluting.

*Black Tea
3-4 teabags
1 L boiling water

Let teabags soak for 10-15 minutes. Strain and let cool.

Aperol Spring Punch

  • 1 750 mL bottle Aperol
  • 1 L sparkling water, or sparkling wine!
  • 1 cup ginger syrup**
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl or vessel, combine all ingredients with ice and stir well. Garnish with lime and lemon wheels.

**Ginger Syrup

Yield approx. 1 cup

1 large knob of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
½ tsp whole peppercorns
2 cups water
1 cup sugar

In a pot add water and ginger and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain out large particles. Add sugar, stir well until dissolved. Let cool.

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