When the concept of punch returned to bars and restaurants a few years ago, it seemed to be something managed best in craft cocktail bars. Punch lends itself to pre-batching in large format servings, cutting down on the dreadfully long service times so many craft cocktail bars have forced customers to endure. It also serves as an excellent complimentary beverage with which to greet guests.
That’s mostly how things have remained, although many spots have given it up, grasping at the next hot thing. But some folks really get the advantages of punch: festive, shareable, quaffing drinks that are essentially self-service. Not only is punch convenient, the serving vessels are gathering spots.
No place better illustrates this then the burgeoning world of Punch Bowl Social, now with 6 locations across the country, including Portland, Denver, Austin, Detroit and Cleveland. Just recently, Punch Bowl opened a 27,000-square-foot entertainment complex in suburban Chicago.
The entertainment venue combining food and beverage “with a dynamic social experience offers three floors boasting old-school games, a gastro diner and craft cocktail program. Featuring 8 bowling lanes, darts, shuffleboard, private karaoke rooms, arcade games, an insane 8-man foosball table, and other fun combined with a menu jam-packed with locally sourced ingredients and a cutting edge punch program.” According to a recent release, this is a sort of Dave & Buster’s for the 21st Century and, as noted, punch is at the core.
Menus change, but here’s what bowlers and other groups can choose from: Something About Rio (Bacardi Superior, watermelon juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, lemon juice), a bowl for 4 people priced at $25 and 8 at $48; and the Bachelors Bowl (Old Forester bourbon, Pimm’s, blackberry elderflower liqueur, pineapple, guava, yerba mate tea, lemon juice), 4 servings at $32 and a bowl for 8 at $64.
There are more, of course, and the menu is hardly punch-centric: fresh juice combos and house sodas headline the non-alcohol list, and adult, alcohol-spiked milkshakes as well as other cocktails, wine and beer make up the well-balanced beverage list. But fitting punches into such a fun concept makes enormous sense, as it would with any venue able to host and looking to attract large parties. Festive, fairly low in alcohol, quaffable, shareable, at least partially batchable in advance, and therefore efficient, with each guest able to decide how much to consume. The question is, why has it taken so long?