Back in sunny southern California, I no longer have a stove, but thanks to my good friend Joshua, I have access to a full bar. As a public service to those of you have not yet chosen a holiday cocktail, we put ourselves through some punch paces with Crimson Bulleit Punch.
First, Joshua ran out to buy the needed ginger liqueur, which to some might be a bit of a hardship -– will I use this bottle again? -– but which he seemed to view as educational material.
We first made this punch exactly as written, shaking it all together in a cocktail mixer. It was a fine thing, heavy on the bourbon straight from the nose to the finish, boozy and big, the sort of drink that has caused generations of children to inquire: “Hey, mommy why were those grown ups all throwing keys in a big bowl last night?”
We saw room for improvisation. The drink could be more fruity, which we assumed was the goal of listing juice, and bourbon is fine but only if you love bourbon. We considered brandy -- often a crucial ingredient for punch -- and Benedictine, elder flower or Luxardo to replace the Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur. All of these items were laid upon a soapstone counter, ready for the mixing.
First we made the recipe with simply half the bourbon and a bit more ginger, making it too much the latter. We added more Champagne. This did nothing much for the drink –- it was basically a lesser-than kir -- but did make it increasingly difficult to take notes.
Veering wildly off course from the spirit of this recipe, we then moved into new proportions -- 1.25 parts brandy, 2 parts cranberry juice, 2 parts Champagne, ¾ part ginger liqueur and added ¼ part crème de casis, which was meant to bring out the fruitiness of things, and to make it more red. Red seemed very important at this point. Oh and we gave the limes a good squeeze, to cut it all.
We were getting somewhere, and adjusted the proportions once more, and involved the aforementioned Luxardo, the Italian liquor made from the crushed pits of Marasca cherries. We feel guilty, but we like it very much, and shared it with others by stumbling down a small flight of stairs with full glasses.
Our final verdict: the Bulleit punch as written makes for a perfect New Year’s Eve punch, but for an individual cocktail, we preferred the remix. Either way, take it easy, or you may find yourself being scraped off the party’s floor.
Here is our version:
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the brandy, cranberry juice, maraschina, and creme de cassis; shake. Stain into a tumbler. Add Champagne to fill the glass, and squeeze in some lime, to taste.
Here is Oui, Chef's:
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, adding the champagne just before party time to better maintain its sparkle. Ladle chilled punch into glasses, garnish with a slice of lime and start singing with Burl.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
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