Now that we’ve long since moved past the days of punches generally being sweetened bowls of fruit juice with a trace of liquor, there’s plenty of room for large format drinks with interesting and high-end ingredients. One exemplar is the Oaxacan Punch from Tad Carducci, an award-winning bartender and founder of Tippling Bros., a bar consultant group. In this smoky, herbaceous punch, Carducci uses equal parts mezcal and Averna, as well as grapefruit and lemon juices, agave nectar and ginger beer.
Despite its most famous characteristic being its “smokiness,” mezcal has incredible range as a spirit, from crisp, slate-tinged mezcals to funky, heavily smoky expressions, and even bright and fruity ones. And while the vast majority of mezcal comes from Oaxaca, there are a number of other states in Mexico where the ancestral liquor is produced. Still, Carducci suggests Sombra mezcal for the Oaxacan Punch, a joven mezcal—that is, a young, un-aged expression—from Oaxaca.
To that he combines an equal part of Averna, a bittersweet Sicilian amaro and classic digestif. This gives the punch a deep richness and botanical quality, which is offset by the acidic brightness of grapefruit and lemon juice. Some agave nectar, which pairs well with the mezcal, adds sweetness.
Much of the volume of the punch comes in the form of ginger beer, which also gives the drink carbonation. It’s important to keep in mind the distinction between ginger beer and ginger ale, the latter of which is often sweeter with less gingery kick. Additionally, different ginger beers have different levels of sweetness and spice, so you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly.
Part of the charm of punch is in its delivery: An ornate punch bowl with a large block of ice and slices of citrus floating merrily in the bubbly drink provides a beautiful centerpiece to any get-together. Don’t stress if you lack a proper punch bowl or a way to make large ice blocks, though. If you need to use smaller ice in a pitcher or bowl, consider cutting back on the added cold water to avoid overly diluting the drink.
- 10 ounces Averna amaro
- 10 ounces mezcal (such as Sombra)
- 5 ounces grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
- 5 ounces lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 1/2 ounces agave nectar
- 6 ounces water, chilled
- 36 ounces ginger beer, chilled
- Garnish: 10 grapefruit slices
- Garnish: 10 lemon slices
Add the Averna, mezcal, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, agave nectar and chilled water into a punch bowl with a block of ice and stir gently to combine.
Add the ginger beer and again stir gently to combine.
Divide between 10 rocks glasses or punch cups.
Garnish each glass with a grapefruit slice and a lemon slice.