How to Use a Pumpkin as a Punch Bowl

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(image: Tim Nusog)

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.

Shawn Chen

We asked Shawn Chen, the bartender at New York City’s Decoy, 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.

Decoy

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.

Chit-Cha Toddy

Serves 12

  • 9 oz George Dickel rye whisky
  • 3 oz Bénédictine liqueur
  • 3 oz blossom honey
  • 6 oz ginger syrup*
  • 6 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 32 oz hot-brewed osmanthus oolong tea**

Garnish: Half lemon wheel studded with cloves; Mint leaf; Cinnamon sugar

Glass: Punch cup or mini hollowed-out pumpkin

Add all of the ingredients into a large pumpkin or punch bowl and stir.

Serve in a mini pumpkin or punch cup, and garnish with a half lemon wheel studded with cloves, one mint leaf and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

*Ginger syrup; Juice .5 cup of fresh, peeled ginger root, add 1 cup of fine sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Keeps for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

**Oolong tea: Steep 2 tsp of the tea with 8 oz of water for 3–5 minutes.

Red Wine Sangria

Serves 12

  • 5 cups cabernet sauvignon wine
  • 1 cup brandy
  • .5 cup triple sec
  • .5 cup sugar cane syrup
  • 3 cup fresh pineapple juice
  • 3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 10 stems lemongrass, peeled and chopped
  • .5 cup Bosc pear, diced
  • .5 cup green apple, sliced

Garnish: 1 skewered blackberry and orange slice

Glass: Wine glass or mini hollowed-out pumpkin

All all of the ingredients into a large pumpkin or punch bowl with ice and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until well-mixed.

Serve in a wine glass or mini pumpkin over ice, and garnish with a skewered blackberry and orange slice.

Locations: New York City
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