You know what’s really tasty this time of year? Spiced-up drinks made with spirits like whiskey or rum; warm cocktails based in a lively oolong tea; deep cabernet Sangria, punctuated with lemongrass, with slices of apples and pears. And you know what makes these things even better? When they’re served from a big ol’ pumpkin, Mother Nature’s punch bowl, and poured into hollowed-out mini pumpkins.
It calls on your latent crafty side. Use a knife to zigzag or scallop the top off. You’ll want to remove all of the seeds and any goop from the inside and then give it a good rinse. Same goes for the mini pumpkins. Depending on how big the “cups” of the minis are, you might need to dig out a little of the flesh to make more room for the drink. Obviously, you can’t carve a face into the side, but get out your bar tools and use a Y-peeler to shave stripes or patterns. For finer lines, a channel knife is great for graffiti and more intricate etchings.
We asked Shawn Chen, the bartender at New York City’sDecoy, to come up with an ideal pumpkin punch, and he went the distance, creating a complex six-spice syrup and even giving the cups little meringue tops—try his Let’s Pumpkin here. And for more cool-weather punches, check out the Chit-Cha Toddy and Red Sangria recipes below.
“My inspiration for the Chit-Cha Toddy came from the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. I wanted to create a cocktail honoring teas and my culture,” says Chen. He uses osmanthus oolong tea from Taiwan, selected for its delicacy and faint nuttiness, paired with adaptable George Dickel rye to make a calming Toddy.
At Decoy, he usually serves it in a Chinese gaiwan, a small cup with a lid, which can be mimicked with a mini pumpkin and its top. “There are many ways to express making tea for someone in Chinese. For example, pao-cha is to brew fresh tea, and dao-cha is to pour tea for someone, but the most respectful way is chi-cha, which is to serve someone tea,” says Chen.