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Champagne punch an easy, versatile way to ring in year

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Dec 28, 2017

(Dec. 29, 2017) It is believed that the older you get, the faster time flies. Scientists say there is no proof to back up this conviction, but I beg to differ. I cannot believe 2018 is upon us.

My registry of memories is not what it used to be. I must confess that sometimes I need reminders for my daily activities. But don’t count this old girl out; not everyone is able to rise and shine at 4 a.m.

That being said, my extravagant New Year’s Eve plans are finalized. At this point in my life I prefer to stay at home and ring in the New Year peacefully. Years of celebrating to the wee hours in the morning no longer tickle my fancy, but that does not mean I forgo a toast of merriment.

My door is always open to company and New Year’s Day is no exception. Preparing a few appetizers eases my need to be prepared. Black-eyed pea hummus, homemade cheese ball smothered in crispy bacon and oyster stew shooters sounds yummy for the first day of the year.

The next question at hand is what adult beverages will be served to commemorate the special day? It takes me all of a few seconds to decide on champagne punch.

Champagne is very appropriate for this occasion; black tie has been in full swing and the bubbly drink is festive indeed. Fruit juices soften the sharpness and add to the overall appeal.

Curiosity can be a good thing. Has one ever wondered how the concept of punch came about? The answer is quite interesting and is the next train of interest.

It is believed that the fruity drink was invented as a beer alternative in the 17th century by men working the ships for the British East India Company. According to the Surprising History of Punch, these beer-drinking shipmen had no problem downing their allotment of 10 pints of beer a day.

However, when the ships reached the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean, the beer held in cargo bays grew rancid and flat. Once the boats reached the shore, sailors created new drinks out of the ingredients indigenous to their destinations.

The sailors ended up bringing back the idea of “punch” to Britain. During the Restoration, punch was the rage of London. Eventually the trend made its way to the American colonies. By the Victorian Age, non-alcoholic punches had gained favor over alcoholic drinks. Children and women could finally enjoy the popular beverage.

The renewal of trends is one of the beauties of culinary progression, libations slip in and out of style with a new sense of enthusiasm. Sugary, sherbet-filled punch bowls of the 1960s and 70s are long gone. Today, punches are more balanced, packed with fabulous flavor, and overall are a more sophisticated drink.

Punches are definitely “in” but that does not mean punch bowls are plentiful. If you cannot find a punch bowl to your liking, give Amazon a try. The website has an interesting selection ranging from crystal, hammered stainless steel and even plastic. Amazon also carries punch bowls with hanging cups and ladles that can be purchased separately.

Punches are considered a long distance drink, not a sprinter like a cocktail or shot. Punches are a great way to entertain large numbers of guests. Have fun with punch recipes and do not be afraid to use your imagination.

Following are a few tips to facilitate the art of punch making. One common mishap is creating a bowl of alcoholic sugar water. You need to balance the alcohol with the fruit juice and some form of carbonated water.

Use an ice sculpture or large block of ice as opposed to ice cubes. The smaller cubes will melt much faster which will dilute your delightful punch. Amazon has a nice selection of ice sculptures at an affordable price. Remember, if you plan to double the recipe, make sure you make two ice sculptures.

Details entail more work but equate superlative results. Use spring water when making your ice sculpture. If you notice the frozen water is not perfectly clear, boil the water for flawless ice.

Chill all liquid ingredient (such as liquor, syrups, sparkling wine, fruit juices, etc.) for several hours before serving.

Sparkling punches begin to lose their fizz after about 2 hours, so do not add the sparkling ingredients until right before serving.

If you want to make a hot punch, prepare it ahead of time, allow to cool and refrigerate. When ready to serve, bring the mixture back to a simmer and add the spirits just before serving. To keep the punch warm while serving, use a crockpot set on low.

It is wise to prepare your garnishes ahead of time. When you are ready to serve the punch, have the garnishes ready so they can easily be added to the actual punch bowl itself or the individual glasses.

Holiday champagne punch is easy to make, tastes absolutely delicious and is a great way for your guests to serve themselves. If you have never made a holiday punch, New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to give it a try. Cheers!

Holiday Champagne Punch

Ingredients

½ cup light rum

½ cup dark rum

½ cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup orange juice

1 cup pineapple juice

½ cup sugar

2 bottles (750 ml each) champagne, chilled

orange and lemon slices as a garnish

1. Fill ice mold with cold water and freeze overnight.

2. In a 3-quart punch bowl, mix rums, fruit juices and sugar. Chill.

3. When ready to serve, slowly stir in champagne. Then carefully lower ice sculpture into the punch. Garnish with fruit slices.

Secret Ingredient - Acceptance. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

— Aristotle

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