Christmas punch

Holiday spirit: On the First Day of Christmas This Punch Came to Me.

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Punch is a drink of celebration. Its very presentation brings people close: Guests gather around the sacred pool of the punch bowl, extend their cups and — assuming you’ve mixed it well — plead Dickensianly for more.

Punch is for people you want to spend time with. If you’re trying to avoid your family this holiday, don’t make punch!

You’ll have no excuse to escape while they unwrap the cheese ball and talk about your aunt’s bursitis.

If you want to dodge your guests, make cocktails, which require rising above the hullabaloo enough to focus on ingredients, measurements and not zesting your knuckle into someone’s martini.

But if want to hang out, chill out, converse, “accidentally” end up under some mistletoe?

Set out a bowl of punch.

You’ll have a chance to get down.

On the First Day of Christmas This Punch Came to Me

Makes: 14 to 16 servings

Gina Chersevani’s punch takes a little time to make, but it has the colors and flavors of Christmas.

For a nonalcoholic punch option, make extra syrup and use it to flavor seltzer.

MAKE AHEAD: You’ll have leftover syrup, which can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

For the syrup

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1½ cups fresh cranberries
  • Peel (no pith) of 1 ruby red grapefruit
  • 2 teaspoons peeled, grated ginger root
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)

For the punch

  • 2 cups syrup (see above)
  • 2 cups pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) Fords gin (may substitute other London dry gin)
  • ¼ cup fresh cranberries, for garnish
  • 8 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 8 dashes Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 large block ice, for serving (see headnote)
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) sparkling wine

For the syrup: Combine the sugar, water, cranberries, grapefruit peel, ginger and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved, the cranberries have burst and the mixture has thickened a bit. Remove from the heat.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large container or 750-milliliter bottle, pressing on the solids to extract as much syrup as possible.

Discard the solids.

The yield is a scant 4 cups.

Cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.

For the punch: Combine 2 cups of the syrup, the grapefruit juice, gin and cranberries in a punch bowl. Add the two types of bitters.

Clap the rosemary between your palms to release its aroma, then add it to the punch bowl. Stir to incorporate, then carefully add the block of ice.

Allow the flavors to meld for 15 minutes, then add the sparkling wine just before serving.

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