When families and friends gather for springtime celebrations, a festive punch is always welcome.
Passover and Easter don't traditionally call for punch, of course. In fact, other than the Seder wine and perhaps champagne for the adults at Easter egg hunts, these occasions aren't widely associated with any particular beverage.
But that just means there is plenty of room to tailor one to your own liking - and that's the beauty of a good punch.
Nona Nielson-Parker of Glasz Cafe in Lake Falls Village just north of Mount Washington says there isn't much call for special beverages this time of year. But she's working on a request for a springtime wedding punch that includes herbal flavors.
That recipe is still in development, but she's planning something with a lemon base. For instance, she'll begin with lemonade and infuse it with an herb - verbena or rosemary would be good choices. (To infuse, heat the liquid and a few sprigs of the herb in a nonreactive pan to just below boiling. Simmer it a few minutes and let it cool before proceeding.)
Then she'll add a somewhat sweeter flavor - she likes cranberry juice - to balance the tartness of the lemonade. A bit of sparkle from ginger ale or club soda livens it up.
What she's aiming for is a pleasing mixture of sweetness, tartness and sparkle, with at least a hint of some pleasant but unexpected flavor.
Nielson-Parker says if she were applying those principles to a springtime brunch punch, she might come up with something with a green base like limeade, with multicolored sherbet to keep it festive and sweet. She would add some sparkle with ginger ale and garnish the whole thing with jelly beans for some unexpected fun.
You can find these same principles, or variations of them, at work in most recipes for punch and other fruit-based beverages. Here are two examples:
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 9 lemons)
In a food processor or blender, process the strawberries and sugar until smooth.
Combine the strawberry puree, water and lemon juice in a 2-quart container and stir to blend the flavors.
Chill until very cold and serve over ice.
- "Lemonade" by Fred Thompson (Harvard Common Press, 2002)
Fills 1 punch bowl
1 can orange juice concentrate (frozen)
1 can lemonade (frozen)
3 cups pineapple juice
4 cups water
2 bottles champagne (or ginger ale)
orange slices for garnish
Mix fruit juices and water together. Add champagne when ready to serve. Garnish with orange slices.
- "Cook County [Ga.] Historic Cook Book" (Cook County Historical Society, 1989)