As much as we love cocktails, punch is the name of the game when we're hosting a crowd. It's an easier, more hands-off approach that leaves you with more time for chatting with friends than minding the bar. Even so, preparing this big-batch drink is more than stirring a few ingredients together in the punch bowl.
1. Mixing it up too far in advance.
The beauty of punch, aside from serving a crowd, is that it can be made in advance. No fetching drinks or shaking up cocktails on the fly — the work is already done. But when made too far in advance, especially if your punch includes juice or another sugary drink, the flavors will start to taste off and any ice will melt and start to water it down.
Follow this tip: Take advantage of this big-batch drink's make-ahead advantages, but within a reasonable amount of time. Prepare punch the morning of when you plan to serve, and no more than a day ahead of time.
2. Serving punch in a container that's too small.
Serving punch in a container that's too small defeats part of the purpose of this big-batch drink. This is a beverage much more suited to big bowls, containers, or large pitchers. Find the right container so you can set the punch out and leave guests to help themselves without the worry of it running out.
Follow this tip: When serving punch, the size of the bowl matters. While punch bowls always make a good choice, they're certainly not the only way. If you're opting for a different way to serve, remember that this drink is for a crowd, so bigger is better. Try using a drink dispenser, a Dutch oven, or even a large, pretty bowl.
3. Going overboard with the booze.
Punch is the kind of drink best served in small cups where guests can continue to help themselves to several cups. Remember this isn't a cocktail per se (although it can certainly be based off of one) — you don't want guests to be three sheets to the wind after one glass!
Follow this tip: Instead of pouring and mixing with abandon, keep this ratio in mind for a well-balanced and refreshing punch: 2 parts spirits; 1 part sparkling wine, seltzer, soda, or water; 1 part sweet, like fruit, juice, or simple syrup; 1 part sour, like lemon or lime juice.
4. Adding the bubbles too soon.
The fizzy kick of carbonated beverages in punch is always delightful, although not everlasting. The fizz typically starts to fade after a few hours, and when added to the punch bowl or pitcher too soon, the bubbles may fade away before everyone has had a chance to partake.
Follow this tip: If your punch uses any kind of sparkling wine, seltzer, or soda, help the bubbly fizz last longer by waiting until the very last minute before pouring it into the punch bowl or pitcher.
5. Adding small ice cubes to a large punch bowl.
When keeping a big bowl of punch chilled, small ice cubes from your freezer trays just don't cut it. They're great for glasses, but when added to a larger container, they melt quickly and dilute your drink along the way.
Follow this tip: For punch with a solid flavor that lasts, be sure to match the size of the ice to the size of the serving container. When serving punch in a large bowl or pitcher, go for larger blocks or rings of ice. This is especially important if your punch will be sitting out for an extended period of time. The block will melt slowly, keeping the punch chilled without diluting it too quickly.