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Warmups

A bowl of warm punch eases the chill of winter nights, as well as any awkward moments at the beginning of a party. It draws in guests as they arrive and sets off an evening on the right note.

Baked apples and clove-studded oranges are traditionally added to punch bowls of hot wassail or cider and may also be used with glogg and gluhwein. Turn the apples into boats holding twinkling tea light candles to dress up the bowl.

Prepare the fruit and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, about the same time it takes to heat the beverage. Then, using the holder of the candle as a guide, enlarge the openings in the top of the cored apples with a knife.

Tuck in the candles but wait to light them until after floating the apples on the surface of the beverage. Be sure to check the candles regularly during the evening and remove or replace them before the wax burns down and becomes completely liquid.

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At casual parties, crock pots make great punch bowls. Set the temperature on low and the beverage will stay warm to the last drop.

Silver punch bowls are also excellent for warm punches. When using a glass bowl, however, be certain it’s tempered and will withstand the heat. It’s also wise to pre-warm the glass with hot water and place a large metal ladle or spoon in the bowl before pouring in the hot liquid.

PICKING YOUR PUNCHES

Glogg: Hot, spicy Swedish wine drink, flavored with almonds, raisins and either aquavit, vodka, brandy or gin.

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Place 1 1/2 cups brandy and 1 (375-milliliter) bottle dry red wine in large nonreactive saucepan and add 8 whole cloves, 3 crushed cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup blanched almonds and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Just before the mixture boils, ignite it by touching a burning match to its surface. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons brown sugar onto the flames, then extinguish with the lid of the pan.

Hot Spiced Cider: Apple cider or juice warmed with spices, apples and/or oranges. May be nonalcoholic or spiked with rum or other spirits.

To 4 cups of cider add 6 whole cloves and a little grated nutmeg. Heat through but do not boil.

Mulled Wine: Wine heated with sugar, spices, apples and/or oranges. Called gluhwein in Germany; vin brule in France, where it’s ignited just before serving.

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To 4 cups of dry red wine add 8 sugar cubes, 4 whole cloves, 4 sticks cinnamon, 4 strips orange peel and 4 strips lemon peel. Heat through but do not boil. Strain before serving.

Wassail: Hot, spiced British punch, usually served during the Christmas holidays. The name probably came from the medieval Saxon toast “Waes Hael!” meaning good health to those who drank the spiced ale. Today’s recipes vary widely, some based on sherry or Madeira and brandy and containing eggs, others calling for spiced apple cider spiked with brandy or vodka.

One recipe calls for 1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer heated with 1/2 pint sherry. When hot, the liquid is poured over a 1/2 pound bar of sugar and 1 whole grated piece of nutmeg and stirred until the sugar dissolves. Add to that 6 (12-ounce) bottles of beer, cover and let stand at room temperature 3 hours.


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