This holiday season, bring Scotch to the punch-bowl party with these nine star ingredients!
Why this recipe works:
This punch can be pre-mixed one day ahead for easy party prep day of.
Chai tea provides tons of flavor without the hassle of having to buy and blend loose spices.
Notes: If you can't find Lustau East India Solera Sherry, which is a blend of Oloroso and PX sherries, substitute another high quality Cream Sherry. To make an ice block, fill a Tupperware container 3/4 full with water, adding rinsed cranberries if desired. Freeze overnight. To remove, let sit 10 minutes at room temperature, then twist to remove, or run under hot water for 5 seconds.
When I'm creating and testing cocktails, there's a lot of soul-searching involved. I try to gauge the success of a new drink (after my own evaluation) by offering it to an imaginary taster, a grumpy old man. He's my idea of the worst critic, the most vocal critic. The person who's going to hate on everything I do, before he's even tried it. It's my job to surprise him, and turn him around.
But in the end, my gruff old man is just an imaginary critic, so it was quite something else when I was recently invited to a Twelve Days of Christmas theme party, and was assigned to prepare a new holiday punch called 'Nine Ladies Dancing" for thirty people. As you can imagine, the pressure to perform rose significantly. Thirty people! Thirty palates! Potentially, thirty gruff old men and women!
Phoning in a retread of a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser wouldn't work. I needed a new, nine-ingredient punch to fit the name (and perhaps get the ladies dancing!).
I decided to go for a Scotch-based punch. No, I wasn't emptying out my wallet in the hopes of impressing: blended Scotch can actually be a very good buy. I chose rich and flavorful Monkey Shoulder, which offers a strong punch of malt, smoke, and baking spice flavors. Just right for a wintery punch.
To balance out all the alcohol, I added tea to lengthen the drink and give a pop of flavor. I whipped up a batch of chai only slightly below full strength. I used already-blended tea bags, but you can also make your own custom chai blend if you're feeling DIY about it. The tea adds a wonderful assortment of appropriate flavors: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and black pepper all work beautifully with the whisky.
The other key ingredients (er, "dancers") in this punch provide the necessary flourishes to make the mixture taste fantastic: Sherry for a little sweet nuttiness; Angostura for bitterness but also extra spice; and vanilla-laced cinnamon sugar syrup for a slightly floral and woodsy sweetness. Nine ingredients may sound like a lot to check off on your list, but every member of the troupe contributes significantly.
I was rather nervous to offer this punch to thirty people—many of them strangers—on its opening night. And rightly so, perhaps, as one gentleman literally wrinkled his nose when I told him: it's a Scotch punch. But I'm happy to report that that same gentleman approached me a short while later. He said he loved it. So much. And asked where he could get the recipe.
For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup:
4 (3- or 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
For the Chai Tea:
2 cups boiling water
3 chai tea bags
For the Punch:
1 (750 ml) bottle blended Scotch, such as Monkey Shoulder
2 1/4 cups Lustau East India Solera Sherry (see note above)
3/4 cup fresh juice from about 6 lemons
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups Chai Tea
1/8 cup Angostura bitters
6 orange wheels, star anise, ice block (see note above), for garnish
For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean seeds and pod, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
For the Chai Tea: Combine boiling water and tea in a heatproof container. Let steep for 4 minutes. Discard tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature before adding to punch.
For the Punch: In a punch bowl or large container, combine Scotch, sherry, lemon juice, syrup, tea, and bitters. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 5 hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, add an ice block and garnish as desired.