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Punch

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Punch
Photograph by Sharon Core

Any libation served with a ladle probably makes you think of middle-school dances. But a proper bowl of punch—the mixed-drink king until cocktails showed up in the mid-1800s—can be a revelation, especially when you're used to those sickly sweet anonymous-fruit versions. Done right, the drink is a harmonious blend of booze, fresh citrus, spices like nutmeg and allspice, and often wine or tea. Thankfully, whether you're ordering for a crowd or just a thirsty twosome, a growing number of bartenders know how to do the classic justice. Rob Willey


WHERE TO DRINK THE BEST MODERN RENDITIONS

1. NEW YORK: Death & Company
Since this dimly lit cocktail den opened in 2007, it's showcased a rotating cast of flawless seasonal punches. Try the Nuts & Sherry, an inspired mix of pecan-infused bourbon, sherry, allspice dram, pineapple juice, and mole bitters. [433 E. 6th St., 212-388-0882; deathandcompany.com]

2. PORTLAND, OREGON: Teardrop Cocktail Lounge
The expert bartenders at this stark watering hole are fond of far-fetched ingredients, but when it comes to punch they stick to the classics: The Customs House combines two pungent forms of rum, absinthe, and an almond syrup called orgeat. [1015 NW Everett St., 503-445-8109; teardroplounge.com]

3. WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Gibson
Greet the heat on the backyard patio of this elegant neo-speakeasy, where the usual no-standing rule is relaxed, the rum drinks flow, and New Delaware Fishing Punch—a family-size riff on an 1888 invention—awaits. [2009 14th St. NW, 202-232-2156]

4. SAN FRANCISCO: Elixir
A saloon of one sort or another has held down this Mission street corner since 1858, and happy hour every Wednesday night honors the mixology of that era with Old Sydney-Town Punch, a blend of malty Dutch genever, allspice liqueur, pineapple syrup, and citrus. [3200 16th St., 415-552-1633; elixirsf.com]

5. PHILADELPHIA: APO Bar + Lounge
In a nod to a 19th-century, picnic- friendly custom, this sleek lounge serves its punch by the bottle. Grab a seat on the roof deck and burn through an evening with Baron Von Thrippleton's Royal Polynesian, a twist on the mai tai that pays playful homage to a co-owner's surname. [102 S. 13th St., 215-735-7500; apothecarylounge.com]


THE SOURCE: HAUS ALPENZ

Alpenz
Photographs courtesy of Haus Alpenz

When Eric Seed, an erstwhile finance guy, founded his liquor-import company in 2005, his portfolio consisted of two obscure Austrian après-ski liqueurs. Today Haus Alpenz is the go-to spot for long-lost ingredients such as crème de violette, allspice dram, and Batavia arrack, a rumlike Indonesian liquor that was once a punch essential. Seed's next project is reviving Swedish punsch, a sharp, smoky, arrack-based liqueur, and with any luck you'll be sipping it in a Boomerang or a Diki-Diki by August. [alpenz.com]


READ MORE:
The best bars for ordering off-menu cocktails
The best dive bars in America

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