Old-School Punch Is The Key To A Swingin' Holiday

This holiday season, we're rifling through church cookbooks and breaking out the punch bowl.

Great-aunts are legally required to make punch for holiday gatherings. If you're a great-aunt, you make punch. This is The Way. But what if holiday punch could transcend your great-aunt's mentholated home? What if punch could quench the thirst of today's trendy young adults? What if, instead of reaching for a cold one, your party guests could ladle up a bunch of Grinch-colored, frothy holiday fun? What if this holiday season became... the season of punch?

There are a lot of reasons to return to punch. First, punch is cheap and convenient. If you're hosting, it saves a ton of time; instead of making individual drinks for everyone at your holiday party, you can dump a bunch of slushy stuff in a bowl and let your guests serve themselves. This leaves you more time to relax and eat cocktail shrimp.

Plus, as any good host knows, you need at least one delicious non-alcoholic beverage for sober guests. Punch feels sparkly and festive, even without the booze.

Finally, punch is delicious. Whether you're indulging your sweet tooth or creating a stiffer, rum-filled concoction, it's easy to tailor your punch to suit a variety of vibes. For these reasons, and many more, we're celebrating punch throughout the month of December. Every week, we'll run a nostalgic punch recipe—some boozy, some sherbet-laden, all delicious. Welcome to our Punch Party, readers. Grab a ladle and take a load off.

Pick your poison

Punch has come a long way, from the bellies of brash British sailors to rum bars like The Breadfruit in Phoenix, Arizona or Las' Lap in New York City. The variations are endless—but this week, we're focusing on old-school punch. Specifically, sherbet punch, straight out of your great-aunt's tchotchke-laden foyer.

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Sherbet punch is a special thing. As Melissa Locker wrote in Southern Living: "When the bubbles hit the sherbet, the combination fizzes up, melting and bubbling into a pastel colored, sugary dream sure to add a bright splash of color to a party table." Sherbet punch is undeniably old-fashioned, long lost to church banquet halls and sticky 1970s birthday parties. Fortunately, we knew exactly where to look to revive ol' Sherb: church cookbooks. Church cookbooks are as old-school as it gets, offering such delights as "deviled cheese sandwich" and "hot meat swirl."

This week's recipe comes courtesy of Ransom's Kitchen Treasures, a cookbook we salvaged from Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church in Niles, Illinois. It's hard to know exactly when this cookbook was published, but the interior front cover features an inscription from 1981, so we'll go with that. Finally, the recipe is attributed to one Phyllis Wagner. Phyllis, if you're out there, may your punch stay ever chilled.

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Sunshine Party Punch

Serves 18 to 24, depending on the size of your ladle/the greed of your guests.

  • 1 (46-oz.) can pineapple juice, chilled
  • 2 (6-oz.) cans frozen orange juice, undiluted
  • 1 (6-oz.) can frozen lemonade, undiluted
  • 1 qt. ginger ale or white wine
  • 1 qt. lime sherbet
  • Ensure all ingredients are well chilled. Mix juices in punch bowl; add ginger ale or white wine. Top with scoops of lime sherbet.

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    Stay tuned for more classic punch recipes throughout the month of December.

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