How to Throw a Hanukkah Party

Contributed by

Nothing says Hanukkah like potato vodka punch.

The best part of Hanukkah might be that it lasts for eight days and nights. That gives you plenty of ways to celebrate the Jewish festival of lights with family and friends. But any party that goes that long demands a strategy.

STEP ONE, PLAN AHEAD:  At least a week before, plan the liquor you’ll require for each drink. Also figure out the ice, mixers, garnishes, tools and glassware. Consider your clean-up gear, too: dish towels, paper towels and trash bins. The night before the party, set a large block of punchbowl ice in the freezer.

STEP TWO, BATCH IT: Don’t try to make one drink at a time for guests. Instead, take a cue from savvy bartenders, and mix a big batch of drinks in a carafe, pitcher, punchbowl—even a pre-mixed bottled drink. Set out the glasses, the garnishes and a note letting your guests know what’s in the drink—and how to assemble it, if more than pouring is required.

STEP THREE, OFFER OPTIONS:  When you’re gathering ingredients for that punch, add extra non-alcoholic cider, so a booze-free option is available. If super-observant Jews are on your guest list, consider putting an unopened bottle of single malt Scotch on the table, too: thanks to strict Scotch-making rules, a great many are certified kosher.

STEP FOUR, FRY IT UP: Soak up the booze with lots of fried food, particularly latkes (potato pancakes), to commemorate the miracle of one day’s worth of oil that burned for eight days. If you opt for fried chicken instead, we won’t tell.

STEP FIVE, RELAX!:  If you’re not having fun, your guests won’t either. A party isn’t about perfection. It’s about enjoying time with your favorite people, and celebrating a special time of the year.

“Vodkas & Latkes” Punch

Contributed by Kara Newman

Serves 16

Potato latkes—often served with applesauce—is an iconic Hanukkah dish. Without getting too literal, here’s a cocktail interpretation of that seasonal favorite. Serve in a punch bowl, with a platter of fresh latkes nearby, of course.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 24 oz Potato vodka
  • 24 oz Cider
  • 12 oz Lemon juice
  • 8 oz Ginger liqueur
  • 32 dashes Angostura Bitters

Glass: Punch
Garnish: Lemon slices and whole cloves

PREPARATION:
The night before: freeze a big block of punchbowl ice:  Pour water into disposable tin loaf pans (fill about halfway) and freeze overnight. When ready to serve punch, peel off the tins. Alternatively, use a bowl instead of a tin pan to create rounded ice. Run the bowl briefly under hot water to release the ice mold.

The day of the party: Add all ingredients to a punch bowl large enough to hold at least 10 cups of liquid. Stir to combine. Add the block of ice, and stir again to chill. Garnish with lemon slices studded with cloves. To serve, ladle into punch cups or tea cups.

Kara Newman is a New York-based spirits and cocktail writer, and author of Cocktails for a Crowd (Chronicle Books).

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