Let's Drink More Punch
The team at Manual loves a good drink. (Who doesn’t?)
We’re actually in the midst of designing a new product line centered around cocktails that we’re excited to share soon. Coincidentally, we had the opportunity to be a sponsor for the 2nd annual Cocktail Summit—a meeting of the minds of some of the most interesting people in the cocktail industry today—so we jumped on it. (We made some custom Bar Blades for the event, which you can see here)
The Cocktail Summit brings together bartenders, mixologists, restaurateurs, flavor specialists, chefs, as well as some dedicated home cocktail enthusiasts for a series of sessions exploring the craft of making good drinks. Session topics ranged from classic cocktail history to pairing savory cocktails to creating successful beverage programs, both professionally and at home.
We were particularly excited by a session hosted by Will Duncan of Punch House on throwing killer cocktail parties using batch cocktails. Will enlightened us to a number of new concepts for why punch makes the perfect cocktail party drink, and got us really excited about making them more regularly at home.
The first insight was learning what actually constitutes a punch - the perfect balance of strong, weak, bitter, sour and sweet for a refreshing and easy party beverage. The strong element can be just about any base spirit - whiskey, gin, vodka, tequila, etc.
Bitter is typically bitters but could also come from Amaro. Sour generally from lemon or lime juice. The weak element can come from tea, juices, champagne, vermouth and any combination thereof.
And for the sweet he introduced a term which was new to us - the oleo saccharum (oily sugar) - a delicate and fragrant citrus syrup made by muddling citrus rinds and sugar over a period of time to really bring the essential oils to the front.
Will also introduced us to the concepts of pre-batching cocktails and bases to punches in advance of hosting a party to minimize playing bartender all night, which makes a lot of sense—we aren’t sure why we aren’t doing it every weekend. He impressively made 25 manhattans in 25 seconds (note the huge funnel and the brown jug above)—a dangerous talent we are going to be sure to show off soon.
This also brought our attention to the importance of diluting large-batches of spirit-forward cocktails—the water you add mimics the melted ice in an individually mixed drink. Water is key to getting the flavor right, and you also want your guests to have a good time, but not fall over after two under-diluted cocktails.
We were also enlightened with a basic ratio for punches which made us immediately run home and start drinking (after sobering up from the sessions.) We took Will’s basic ratio and came up with a tasty punch of our own.
Essentially a cross between a mint julep, sweet tea and lemonade - inspired by the south and the spring, and in honor of a mint and bourbon loving friend who we recently lost. It’s especially tasty sitting in the fresh spring air sipping from one of our Manual glass mugs.
Back Porch Bourbon Punch
Makes about 12 6oz portions
You will need:
The peels of two oranges and one lemon
6 oz sugar
One handful of fresh mint
5 cups of black tea, cooled
1 750mL bottle of bourbon - we used Four Roses. (You can use the best quality that fits your budget, but don’t break the bank since you’re mixing it, after all.)
The juice from the peeled fruit - or about 6 oz
1 oz (2 tbsp) orange bitters
approximately 4 cups of ice (the larger the cube the better to prolong melting time)
mint and lemon slice for garnish
First, make the oleo saccharum (this step takes about an hour). Combine the lemon and orange peels and sugar in a large (2 qt) bowl or pitcher, and muddle for about a minute. Set aside for about 15 minutes, and muddle again - do this a total of 4 times, or for one hour. Add the mint and muddle one last time and let sit for about 5 minutes. Your oleo saccharum should be syrupy at this point.
In the meantime brew your tea and let it cool.
Add the tea to the syrup and stir to combine, and then add your bourbon, bitters and lemon juice. Strain with a fine mesh sieve, or a coffee filter if you are type A and have the time. You can do all of this one or even two days in advance of your party - just store it in the fridge and try not to drink it all before your guests arrive.
When you are ready to serve, go ahead and add the ice, toss a ladle in there and serve in glasses over ice with a nice garnish of citrus peels and a sprig of mint. For a longer sipping punch top with soda water, or for a more celebratory punch top with a dry sparkling wine or brut champagne. Enjoy while sitting on a back porch with good friends.
Manual will be launching a line of cocktail goods in late Spring 2017—join our mailing list to learn more when they launch.