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11.24.10 by  

Holiday on the Rocks

Christy Canterbury’s signature cocktail for the season.

The Mixologist:
Christy Canterbury, Wine Acquisitions Director, Italian Wine Merchants

The Backstory:
I’ve forgotten how many punch recipes I suffered through over the years, then learned to ameliorate. This year, my mom, Liz Canterbury, and I have gone through a dozen recipes in the hopes to find one we could modernize and make worthy of serving to our family. We started with our favorite recipe and found a few ways to spice it up. Brown spirits work their tricks here, culminating in the perfect mix of savory and sweet fruits with a spirity kick and spice.

I recommend taking your go-to punch recipe, if it’s salvageable and begin doctoring it up with boutique spirits and elixirs.

The Cocktail:

Mom’s Holiday Punch

  • 1 quart grape juice
  • 1 cup orange juice (no pulp)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • Sugar to taste (remember to add spirits first)
  • Spirits*
  1. Mix juices and water and heat thoroughly.
  2. Add spirit(s) and sugar to taste. Don’t forget to set aside a portion for those not indulging in a spirited libation.
  3. Serve with cinnamon stick stirrers and float orange slices on top.
  4. Use star-shaped cookie cutters to slices of lemons, limes and kiwi to float, too.

* Here’s my favorite way to spice up holiday recipes:

1. Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva — It adds mid-palate breadth, oozes spices, layers in everything that conjures up thoughts of fall harvest fruit pies. This is a soulful addition that really rocks it with heartier and spicier punches.

2. Flor de Cana Centenario Gold 18 Year Old — When you want to achieve the opposite of the Cardenal Mendoza, go for this. It’s not full-bodied like Cardenal Mendoza but it does add plumpness on the palate. Its aromas are more percussion than bass notes, so it blends perfecto with less spicy, more citrusy and pineapple-y punches.

3. Rhum JM Rhum Agricole Aged in Oak — Simply brilliant for lending a boozy nature to your punch rather than impressing its own mark on the punch too much.

4. Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Year Old Rum — A splurge that is admittedly best suited solo rather than blending. But it’s the holidays and you deserve it. Just remember it’s as yummy to sip alone as to blend, so there are many applications.

5. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram — For the ambitious, adventurous and rebellious! I HEART Allspice Dram. This is a radical addition to any punch, so proceed with extreme caution. When you add this, consider the service temperature and remember that what is initially served hot cools down, so the tactile effect of this addition will change as the beverage cools in a friend’s or aunt’s cup. It’s got the bitterness, balance and evergreen freshness of certain Italian amaro concoctions and the spice of the most exaggerated Spanish brandy. While it’s pungent in flavor and sports 22.5% alcohol, with the minuscule additions you’ll add to make your holiday punch more enjoyable, it’s a surprisingly good low(er) alcohol option.

May every sip be delicious and warming!