Punch, the cocktail’s progenitor, is the earliest form of mixed drink with the earliest written record of it dating back to 1632. By definition, it’s a balanced blend of spirit, sugar, citrus, spice, and water.
In their heyday during the early 17th century, punches were a favored beverage among British aristocrats who could afford rare ingredients such as tea, spices, and citrus, which grew in warmer parts of the world, primarily Southeast Asia. The five-ingredient elixir was typically made in large batches for parties, where guests could ladle a portion into their glass from a large punch bowl, a practice that still exists today.
When punches hit their stride in the 17th and 18th centuries, they went from primarily being made with arrack, a rum-adjacent Southeast Asian spirit, to anything that imbibers could get their hands on, including brandy, gin, rum, sherry, and other spirits. While rum punch still remains the most popular and well-known punch, especially in the Caribbean, bourbon and other whiskeys also found themselves in punches as they became more popular among American drinkers. And, of course, there’s the adjacent milk punch, popular during the holiday times. If you’re a whiskey lover and a bourbon fan in particular, these punch recipes are for you and your next festive gathering.
1. Super Sunday Punch
This punch is perfect for sports fans who enjoy hosting viewing parties and tailgates. The recipe was developed by Chicago bartender Mike Ryan, who calls upon two quintessential American spirits for the base of this punch: Laird’s apple brandy and a 100-proof bottled-in-bond bourbon (Jim Beam and Evan Williams bonded provide best bang for your buck). To complement the base spirits, Ryan adds allspice and cinnamon sticks to capture seasonal spice flavors, along with grapefruit juice, honey syrup, and sweet tea. (Feel free to throw in some lemon juice if you like, too.) It’s an approachable punch that will leave you feeling nice and warm as the seasons turn.
2. Tomahawk Punch
This punch is perfect for the experienced home bartender with a well-stocked home bar. It’s a large-format drink made with a bottle of bourbon paired with the warming spice of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, lime juice, honey syrup, Angostura bitters, and sparkling cider. The suggested serving bowl is a hollowed-out pumpkin, but if that's too much, then an ordinary punch bowl will do.
3. Bourbon Rosemary Punch
For bourbon-curious imbibers who’ve tried getting into whiskey but aren’t yet entirely sold on the spirit, this aromatic citrus-forward aperitivo-style punch might just be the drink you’ve been waiting for. Bourbon plays a supporting role in this punch, serving as the alcoholic backbone to the lower-ABV rosemary-infused Aperol. These two ingredients are complemented by grapefruit juice, honey syrup, dry sparkling wine, and soda water before being garnished with handfuls of grapefruit wheels and rosemary sprigs. Because it’s relatively light on the bourbon, this punch has wide appeal, making it a perfect party punch.