Throwing Punches: Shareable Drinks for the Holiday Season

The Connoisseur Cup Punch at Punch Bowl Social. All recipes courtesy of Punch Bowl Social. Images: Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social

While bars around the country are celebrating National Punch Day this week on September 20, Punch Bowl Social, the 14-unit restaurant, bar and fun concept, is going above and beyond its usual three to four menued punches.

For this day only, the Denver, Colo.-based concept is offering a punch flight—four punches for $10, which “creates excitement and is so Instagrammable,” says Patrick Williams, national beverage director.

“We have always had punches and it was one of the original things I wanted to do with the concept,” he adds.

Every day of the year, Punch Bowl Social menus three regular punches and a rotating seasonal one. They’re all shareable, which ties into “Social” in the concept’s name. They can be served in single servings, for four people or for eight, and each comes in a vintage punch bowl (from thrift stores), with fancy ladles and mismatched teacup glasses.

Customers love the shared punches, Williams says, but the servers push them, too. “This is one of the first things the servers will mention. They give a tour of the menu because Punch Bowl has so much going on and we want people to be aware of what the options are.”

Servers point out what a great deal the punches are and will provide samples since the cocktails are already mixed.

It's a Mer-Man's World shareable cocktail at Punch Bowl Social
It's a Mer-Man's World

Having ready-made cocktails that are batched up means much less work for bar staff, but there’s another advantage: “It works out better for efficiency and margins,” Williams says. Beverage margins tend to be 15% to 20% and the shareable cocktails come on the low end of that.”

For guests, the punches typically cost $8 to $10 per serving and typically the bars don’t offer different amounts, such as for six people, because they’re batched up for four.

Most guests end up buying the shared cocktails, says Williams. “It’s hard to resist, especially here where everything lends itself to group activities. It brings people together around the bowl and they’re having that shared experience.” They also look great as they travel across the bar, drawing more attention.

National Punch Day limited-time offer single serve punch cocktails at Punch Bowl Social
Happy National Punch Day!

There’s typically a seasonal LTO punch in each location every month, too, created by staff at that location and often using seasonal and local ingredients, “giving bartenders a chance to experiment,” says Williams. “It’s a cool way to engage our employees and there’s individuality and creativity at the local level.” The employee who devised the recipe will get a menu mention, too.

Also, for the five big national holidays, local teams submit recipe ideas and Williams chooses one that will be featured at all locations. These holiday punches sell very well. “For customers, the holiday is on their mind so they’re more likely to jump on that because there’s more engagement, say, for Valentine’s than a May cocktail.”

The Watermelon Polo Bowl shareable cocktail at Punch Bowl Social
The Watermelon Polo Bowl

The three permanent punches (all $9/$36 for four servings/$72 for eight servings) are The Watermelon Polo Bowl (Sauza reposado tequila, Teakoe's watermelon spearmint tea, McClary Bros watermelon shrub, housemade strawberry syrup and fresh lime juice); It's a Mer-Man's World (Old Forester bourbon, Teakoe's pineapple papaya tea, housemade cardamom syrup, Flor de Caña aged rum and fresh lime juice); and Conoisseur’s Cup (Breckenridge gin, Teakoe’s Kodiak Mountain mint tea; housemade lavender syrup, Dolin Blanc vermouth and fresh lemon juice).

Upcoming seasonal punches are the Orange is the New Black Sabbath for Halloween; Gobble This for Thanksgiving; Naughty or Nice? for Christmas; and L’Année Rose for New Year.

The Essentials

According to Williams, classic punches must contain five elements: sour (citrus or vinegar shrubs); sweet (sugar or syrup); strong (base spirit); weak (soda water, tea or sparkling wine); and spice.

He likes to use tea because it has a lot of great fresh flavors, tannins, and sometimes tropical notes, and it adds a lot of flavor while remaining cost effective. The company uses Teakoe’s blends in all locations. The locations brew it onsite “which is great as it brings a level of consistency,” Williams explains.

Orange is the new Black Sabbath Halloween shareable cocktail at Punch Bowl Social

Halloween: Orange is the new Black Sabbath

Recipe courtesy of Punch Bowl Social; Image: Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social

For an 8-person bowl:

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) Agave nectar (Punch Bowl Social likes Tres Agaves brand as it’s ready to pour. If you buy a normal agave nectar at the grocers, dilute with 1 part water for every 2 parts agave nectar)
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) Orange juice
  • 12 oz. (1.5 cups) Reposado tequila (Punch Bowl Social likes El Jimador)
  • 16 oz. (2 cups) of Teakoe’s Orange Octane tea, brewed normal strength
  • Orange peels to garnish

Pour all ingredients into a large pitcher (at least 44-ounce). Stir pitcher and fill shaker tins halfway with punch, the rest of the way with ice, and shake. If you don’t have shaker tins, pour into punch bowl and add about half as much ice as you’d need to fill. Stir the punch with a ladle for a minute to properly mix. Add ice to properly fill the bowl. Pour a half cup of red wine into something that’s easy to pour from and slowly pour around the edges of bowl for the float. Garnish with orange peels

Gobble This fall and Thanksgiving shareable cocktail at Punch Bowl Social

Thanksgiving: Gobble This

Recipe courtesy of Punch Bowl Social; Image: Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social

For an 8-person bowl

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) Fresh lemon juice
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) Cranberry shrub Punch Bowl Social uses McClary Bros.)
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) Teakoe’s Irie Island Spiced Tea
  • 12 oz. (1.5 cups) Cinnamon Honeycrisp Apple Syrup (see note)
  • 12 oz. (1.5 cups) Good bourbon (Punch Bowl Social like Old Forester)
  • Lemon peels to garnish
  • Rosemary sprigs to garnish

Pour all ingredients into a large pitcher (at least 44 ounce). Stir pitcher and fill shaker tins halfway with punch, the rest of the way with ice, and shake. If you don’t have shaker tins, pour into punch bowl and add about half as much ice as you’d need to fill. Stir the punch with a ladle for a minute to properly mix. Add ice to properly fill the bowl. Garnish with lemon peels and rosemary sprigs

For the Cinnamon Honeycrisp Apple Syrup:

Take 1 lb. Honeycrisp apples, cubed with 3 cinnamon sticks. Simmer in 1 quart water on a low boil for 30 minutes. Take off heat and strain. Add equal parts sugar to apple cinnamon water to finish syrup.

Naughty or Spice? winter and Christmas shareable cocktail at Punch Bowl Social

Holiday: Naughty or Spice?

Recipe courtesy of Punch Bowl Social; Image: Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social

For an 8-person bowl

  • 16 oz. (2 cups) Good bourbon (Punch Bowl Social likes Old Forester)
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) Orgeat
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) Spiced orange syrup
  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup) St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) Fresh lemon juice
  • Orange wheel with cloves picked inside to garnish

Pour all ingredients into a large pitcher (at least 44 ounce). Stir pitcher and fill shaker tins halfway with punch, the rest of the way with ice, and shake. If you don’t have shaker tins, pour into punch bowl and add about half as much ice as you’d need to fill. Stir the punch with a ladle for a minute to properly mix. Add ice to properly fill the bowl. Garnish with orange wheel with cloves picked inside.

L’Année Rose New Year's Eve shareable cocktail at Punch Bowl Social

New Year’s: “L’Année Rose”

Recipe courtesy of Punch Bowl Social; Image: Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social

For an 8-person bowl

To make at home, pour all ingredients into a large pitcher (at least 44 ounce). Stir pitcher and fill shaker tins halfway with punch, the rest of the way with ice, and shake. If you don’t have shaker tins, pour into punch bowl and add about half as much ice as you’d need to fill. Stir the punch with a ladle for a minute to properly mix. Add sparkling wine and ice to properly fill the bowl. Garnish with quartered grapefruit.