Just the right Punch

With imagination, you can stir up a centerpiece beverage that will bowl party guests over

June 21, 2000|By Beverly Bundy | Beverly Bundy,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

The punch bowl is the genteel dowager of the cocktail party.

Sweet enough she is, but hardly a room-stopper. A little neglected, a little tired, she is the obligatory guest who must be invited every year.

But with just a soupcon of imagination, that dowager can be turned into Carmen Miranda. Think of punch as the centerpiece, instead of the afterthought, and let it make a statement at your summer soiree.

Start with unusual containers instead of the mundane, low-slung models with the prissy little glasses. Think of big jars, oversize mixing bowls, huge vases. Clear containers are best for displaying jewel-like colors.

Then go wild with the fruit. Vibrant and aromatic, peaches and pineapples, mangoes and melons add life and movement to the whole scene.

And, you can eat the decorations the next day.

Pina-Colada Punch

Makes 5 quarts

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2-inch piece ginger root, crushed

2 1/2 cups cold water

1/2 pound unsweetened coconut

5 cups boiling water

2 1/2 cups dark rum

10 1/2 cups pineapple juice cocktail cherries, pineapple chunks and ice, to garnish Place sugar, ginger and cold water in pan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.

Let cool, and strain into a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, mix the coconut and boiling water in another pan and let stand for 10 minutes.

Strain coconut mixture into serving bowl and mix well. Stir in rum and pineapple juice and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve decorated with cocktail cherries, pineapple chunks and ice.

Per serving: 174 calories; 1 gram fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0 cholesterol; 3 milligrams sodium; 5 percent calories from fat -- From "The Classic Party Fare Cookbook" (Dorling Kindersley, 1995) by Martha Rose Shulman

Sparkling Fruit Punch

Serves 4-6 (see note)

1 cup peeled and diced fresh pineapple

1 banana, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch dice

2 navel oranges, peeled, white pith cleaned away, and cut into 1/4 -inch dice

1/2 small papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4 -inch dice

2 1/2 cups chilled cranberry juice

1 cup chilled lemon-lime soda ice cubes fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except ice and garnish in a pitcher or punch bowl.

Serve over ice, garnished with mint leaves.

Note: The recipe easily doubles or triples.

Per serving: 131 calories; trace fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0 cholesterol; 9 milligrams sodium; 3 percent calories from fat -- From "Bistro Latino" (Morrow, 1998) by Rafael Palomino

Fruit-Infused Patron

Makes 2 3/4 gallons

3 large, ripe pineapples (see note)

1 medium, ripe, seeded watermelon

3 firm, large, ripe mangoes

1 pound fresh ginger root

3 (750 milliliters each) bottles silver tequila

1 (750 milliliters) bottle orange liqueur

pineapple or orange slices, for garnish

Slice pineapples in 1/2 -inch-thick rounds. Cover the bottom of a 2 3/4 -gallon crock with one layer of pineapple slices.

Add watermelon, also sliced in 1/2 -inch-thick rounds, as the second layer.

Slice the mango and layer against the sides of jar.

Thinly slice the ginger, and add about 16 pieces to top of mango layer. Alternate ginger every three fruit layers.

Repeat above steps to make a rainbow effect with the multiple layers of fruit.

Add the tequila and the liqueur. Let stand 12 hours, refrigerated.

Serve in a rocks glass full of ice or in a small-stemmed wineglass with ice. Garnish with pineapple or orange slices.

Note: Do not substitute other fruits.

Per cup: 248 calories; trace fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; trace protein; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 4 milligrams sodium; 1 percent calories from fat -- From Patron Tequila

Herb-Garden Punch

Serves 10-16

2 generous bunches lemon balm sprigs, plus additional sprigs

2 generous bunches mild-flavored mint, plus additional sprigs

2 (46 ounces each) cans unsweetened pineapple juice juice of 2-3 lemons

3 lemons, cut into round slices additional sprigs lemon balm and/or mint sparkling water or champagne and fresh lime juice to taste

2-3 limes, cut into round slices

Gently wring bunches of lemon balm and mint to release flavor. Place in large container and cover with pineapple and lemon juices and lemon slices. Chill overnight, occasionally stirring and pressing down on herbs with the back of a wooden spoon. Before serving, remove herbs (they will have become discolored) and replace with fresh herb sprigs. Pour punch into chilled glasses with sparkling water (or champagne), lime juice, lime slices and a sprig of fresh lemon balm and/or mint.

Per serving: 106 calories; 0 fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0 cholesterol; 3 milligrams sodium- From "The Herb Garden Cookbook" (Gulf Publishing, 1998) by Lucinda Hutson

Garden Sangria

Serves 25-30

4 oranges, sliced

1 gallon dry red or fruity white wine

1 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau liqueur

2 cups brandy

2 bunches long-stemmed lemon verbena and/or any combination of mint, lemon balm and pineapple sage plus additional sprigs fresh seasonal fruit, such as seedless grapes, apple slices, pear slices and soft fruit such as strawberries, peaches, star fruit and kiwi

2 lemons, thinly sliced

2 limes, thinly sliced additional packages frozen peaches or frozen blueberries club soda, sparkling Spanish wine or champagne

Place oranges, wine, liqueur, brandy and fresh herb sprigs in a large glass container; cover and refrigerate overnight or for several days. Four to six hours before serving, add the firmer fruit and the sliced lemons and limes (these may become bitter if left in for days). Soon before serving, pour the sangria into a glass pitcher, adding the freshly sliced softer fruits; replace the herb sprigs with fresh ones because they will have discolored. Add frozen fruit just before serving; it will keep the libation chilled. Pour sangria into long-stemmed glasses with a splash of club soda, wine or champagne and a fresh herb sprig.

Per serving: 175 calories; 0 fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0 cholesterol; 8 milligrams sodium - From "The Herb Garden Cookbook" (Gulf Publishing, 1998) by Lucinda Hutson

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