How to Make Punch Without a Recipe

December  9, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Assistant Editor Kenzi Wilbur shows us how to make boozy party punch with whatever is lingering in your liquor cabinet.

How to Make Punch Without a Recipe from Food52

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Let's be real: it isn't a holiday party until there's punch. Who else is going to give you the courage to let loose all of your cocktail party facts, your recitation of this book, and your casual mentionings of the latest profile in the New Yorker

Yes, you'll need a large bowl of it -- but you won't need a recipe. All you'll need is a ratio, and the ability to stir. (You won't even need a punch bowl -- use the best large bowl in your cabinet -- though you get bonus points for pulling out the fine crystal.) 

Just pour, gently mix, and serve; then pass the good will -- bestowing this ratio on your friends will be your best cocktail party knowledge yet. 

Ready? Commit this to memory: 2 parts booze : 2 parts wine : 2 parts juice (optional) : 1/2 to 1 part sweet  

For the booze, use your favorite; for the wine, bubbles are best, white wine works, hard cider is nice with apple and rye; for the sweet, use your judgment. We like to use simple syrup, or you can add a sweet liqueur, like St. Germain if you're making gin punch, or Domaine de Canton if your batch wants a gingery kick.  

We love gin with grapefruit juice, mint simple syrup, and sparkling wine. We'd happily sip the same with bourbon instead of gin. Give us seconds of rum, lager, and brown sugar simple syrup. Have fun with this -- it's a party, after all.

The most important part? Taste as you go. If your juice is quite sweet (cider, pomegranate juice), go easy on the simple syrup or liqueur. Taste. If it's tart (grapefruit, lemon), add more. Taste again. 

How to Make Punch Without a Recipe 

1. Make the simple syrup, if you're using one: dissolve one part sugar in an equal amount of water over medium heat. If you want to be fancy like we were here, throw in aromatics or herbs to infuse at the end, and let everything steep off the heat. Cool. Make an ice ring, or make sure you have ice cubes for serving. 

How to Make Punch Without a Recipe from Food52

2. Ready all of your non-carbonated ingredients -- mostly likely this will mean taking off their caps -- and pour them into a punch bowl (or a container if you're doing this ahead). Stir, then chill until it's party time. 

How to Make Punch Without a Recipe

3. Add any bubbles you're using right at the last minute. Garnish with whatever makes you happy: mint leaves, citrus slices, and candied cranberries are all fair game. Serve. Sip. Repeat. 

How to Make Punch Without a Recipe

What do you put in your punch? Tell us in the comments! 

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom

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Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


martha1108 December 10, 2016
I love that punch bowl. Is it available for purchase somewhere, or was it a one-off from an artisan?
Prathima April 27, 2018
Martha, I know this is a year late, but I believe it's the cake stand/punch bowl from Williams Sonoma. I have it and it's super handy!

SandyToes December 28, 2015
@Diane, that sounds like the classic punch from Barbados.

My own punch is a Planter's Punch, with pineapple juice, orange juice, light and dark Jamaican rum and sparkling water. A float of grenadine is nice touch.
ichibanbrianne December 15, 2013
Last week I searched and searched for punch recipes to no avail so I invented my own. I tried to make a beautiful ice ring with sliced clementines and pomegranate seeds but boiling the water beforehand did not make a clear ice cube... It looked better as it melted. The recipe uses one of my favorite liquors, the Esprit de June brandy distilled from wine grapes and their flowers. It has a delicate, floral taste and beautiful package that makes you never want the cloying St. Germain
ichibanbrianne December 15, 2013
Excuse me... I'll continue. So I went with one bottle of cava to one cup of the brandy to a cup and a half of club soda for the punch and it was excellent. I also had a DIY old-fashioned bar and certain guests were happy to add maraschino cherries to their punch, which was a little horrific, but people love cherries, even if they haven't been spoiled by the Luxardo bug. It was also really easy to make more punch with those proportions when it ran out. I would also experiment with a sparkling rosé for the concoction.
Diane December 14, 2013
My grandmother remembered punch this way: 1 of Sour, 2 of Sweet, 3 of Strong, 4 of Weak. I think it was more of a Caribbean-type punch, but it's certainly a no-fail recipe.