The occasions to punch things up are plentiful

SIPS

From showers to luncheons, a good beverage serves you well

May 22, 2002|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Graduations, showers, luncheons and more - a good punch recipe can always come in handy.

Punch is one of those generic beverages that safely lend themselves to creativity. Just put good sips together and, although it's theoretically possible to go badly wrong, it's pretty hard to concoct something utterly undrinkable.

Pleasant punch recipes abound, especially in the nooks and crannies of your mother's or grandmother's recipe collection and in the yellowed pages of old community cookbooks.

Thumb through some of these publications and you can almost imagine being there - at a meeting of the garden club, showering a blushing young bride-to-be or singing happy birthday to a wired 6-year-old who is far more interested in opening presents than sipping punch.

Punch is truly an all-occasion drink. And if the occasion needs a bit of, well, punching up, that's easy to do - just add vodka or other spirits and you can rapidly produce a drink no one can call innocuous. But for now, let's stick with punch for all ages.

Most punch combines fruit juices with something fizzy - such as club soda and ginger ale. The fruit juices almost always include some citrus. That adds some bite and keeps the drink from taking on a cloying sweetness.

Beyond that, there are some tried-and-true ways to dress it up. You can freeze mint leaves, maraschino cherries or some other garnish in ice cubes to float in the punch bowl.

Or try a frozen fruit ring. One recipe from a community cookbook in Georgia calls for thawing and draining frozen strawberries, arranging them in a 1-quart ring mold with pineapple cubes, orange sections and mint leaves. Add water to partially cover the fruit and freeze. Then finish filling mold to the top with water and freeze again. Use this instead of ice in the punch bowl.

As for the punch itself, use your imagination. There's always the lime-sherbet standby. Again, here is a recipe from the Georgia cookbook:

Thaw 2 small cans of lemonade, chill a large can of pineapple juice and 2 large bottles of ginger ale. Put 1/2 gallon of lime sherbet in a large bowl and break into large pieces. Then add the liquids and serve.

The book doesn't give exact sizes for these cans, but that's the beauty of punch. Just get the proportions more or less right and you'll be fine.

For a punch that can take a lot of ice - and can easily accommodate vodka for an appropriate occasion - try Perfect Party Punch, adapted from Of Tide & Thyme: Contemporary and Classic Recipes Celebrating Annapolis, published by the Junior League of Annapolis, 1995, $18.95.

Perfect Party Punch

Serves 24

4 liters ginger ale, or more if desired

one 12-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate

one 12-ounce can frozen lemonade juice concentrate

one 12-ounce can frozen pineapple juice concentrate

one 12-ounce can frozen limeade juice concentrate

one 12-ounce can frozen grapefruit juice concentrate

one 4-ounce can frozen cranberry juice concentrate

Thaw concentrate and mix all ingredients well. Add a lot of ice. If ice is not melting, add an additional 1 1/2 liters of ginger ale.

Note: This is an acidic punch. Unless the ice melts rapidly, begin with 4 liters of ginger ale and add more if the punch is still too tart for your taste.

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