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The Retro Drink Everyone Loves
1. Keep It Seasonal
An iced tea-lemonade punch is terrific in July, but December calls for ingredients such as citrus, apple brandy and warm baking spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. And now's the time to serve heartier punches (think ones that include egg nog).
2. Watch the Booze
One of the most common mistakes Searing sees is too-strong punch (even if part of the drink's appeal is its potency). Either follow a recipe to make sure you don't over-spike, or adhere to this rule of thumb: Each 5-ounce serving (the standard size for the cups that accompany most bowls) should contain about 1 and a half ounces of an 80-proof spirit (most vodka, gin, whiskey and rum fall into this category).
3. Save the Sweets for the Gingerbread House
Searing says it helps to think of sugar (or agave, or whatever you're using) in punch as salt in a savory recipe: You need it, but too much will ruin the finished product. Mix all the ingredients together and add the sweetener last, and don't use all of it at once. Add a little bit, then taste, and keep doing so until you think it's just right--and maybe ask one other person's opinion, to be sure.
4. Use Ice Wisely
Pouring a bag of ice cubes into a bowl of punch is the fastest way to dilute the liquid. Instead, Searing says to prepare your own ice block by filling a Bundt or loaf pan, or a 2-quart paper milk or juice container with water (if using a carton, rinse well first). Freeze, and when you're ready to serve, run the pan under warm water to release the ice, or peel off the paper carton. Have a second block in the freezer if your party will last more than 3 hours. If you don't want to make a block, serve the punch without ice, and have an ice bucket nearby so guests can add as much as they want.
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