The Do’s And Dont’s Of Making Perfect Holiday Punch

Novela's festive holiday punch
Novela’s festive holiday punch

Photo Credit: Wendi Green

There are three more weekends left in 2017 and the time has never been better to throw a holiday party! Although I’m a fan of made to order specialty cocktails, when entertaining at home, especially during the Christmas and Hanukkah rush, I prefer to serve a big bowl of punch. It’s festive, fun, and fabulous. Guests can help themselves and the host isn’t stuck behind the bar shaking drinks all night.

Suzanne Miller
Suzanne Miller

Photo Credit: Wendi Green

To learn how to make the perfect holiday punch, I reached out to Suzanne Miller, the bar director and general manager at Novela in San Francisco. Novela, which is a happy hour hot spot downtown, specializes in punch. Miller serves six different kinds of punch—it’s on tap at the bar. Plus, Novela has three varieties that are available to-go in custom bottles. All you have to do is add booze. Here, Miller shares what should and shouldn’t do to craft the most potent and delicious punch around.

Do get creative with decorative ice.

Make your punch Instagram-worthy by making decorative ice rings using a bundt cake pan. Simply add water to the pan, along with edible flowers and colorful fruit slices (orange and cranberry are particularly vibrant), and freeze. 15 minutes before serving, pop the ice ring into your punch to chill.

Novela's punch to go
Novela’s punch to go

Photo Credit: Wendi Green

Don’t overlook the garnish.

Create a festive punch presentation by garnishing your punch bowl and decorating the area surrounding your punch presentation using elements inspired by the ingredients in your punch. Whole citrus, fresh herbs, and cinnamon sticks work well.

Do mix up your glassware.

Use a variety of mismatched glassware – or even non-traditional vessels like decorative tea cups and saucers adds dimension and character to your holiday experience! Punch is playful by design, so let your glassware reflect that spirit.


Don’t forget the season.

Embrace bright colors! Let the freshest and ripest fruits at the market serve as the main attraction of your seasonal punch. They will always be your best bet for what flavor direction your punch should take. Certain vegetables, too: juiced greens, beets, carrots, and other tasty sweet veggies can be fun, modern, (and healthy!) additions to what we have come to think of as “punch.”

Do befriend the blender.

When making oleo saccharum, (or juicing fruits that need blending with water), don’t be afraid to save time by using a blender, processor, or Vitamix. Oleo saccharum can be made in the processor to cut down muddling time, and the Vitamix can help juice fruits you wouldn’t otherwise be able to use so freely. Just mix with water and strain afterwards.


Don’t be afraid of using tea.

Consider using tea in place of water (one of the five classic ingredients in a traditional punch). Tea is a great way to add another layer of flavor. Chamomile and Earl Grey impart flavors that go very well with fruit ingredients; others can add smoky or nutty notes. Also consider using nut milks (these are usually water-based, and can also simply be made at home with a Vitamix), or making a “tea” out of the spices you intend to use in your punch.

Do spice things up.

One of the five classic punch ingredients, this is a key element to making a punch dimensional. Play with warm and hot spices. Warm baking spices are great for fall and winter flavors, while jalapeño and chipotle can add a kick that many people enjoy!