I have a new holiday tradition: Spiced Apple Cider Bourbon Punch. I made it last year for a big White Elephant holiday party and then I made it again this year for Thanksgiving and it’s the biggest hit every time.
When I developed the recipe originally, I’d been wanting to make a cider punch for the holidays but didn’t want an entire punch at my house. When I’m making a large quantity like this, it can’t just be me and my intern at the house tasting in the afternoon. There’s over 3 cups of bourbon in this one!
My punch bowl is my prized possession. I knew that punch was popular from when I lived in Chicago and frequented secret ‘punch’ clubs in speakeasy fashion. Often housed in an “up-and-coming” part of town, through an unmarked doorway, you’ll find yourself creeping down a dark stairway which opens to a huge, crowded den of beautiful people enjoying fancy punches in large leather booths by candlelight.
One of my wine teachers in Seattle made me realize that I could create this culture on my own. He told the class that punch is always “in” and that the best way to get a bowl is to go to second-hand stores because everyone always gives away their old punch bowls. He was so right. This is how my coveted crystal punch bowl became mine for $6 after a trip to a Seattle Goodwill store.
So now I tote my heavy punch bowl over to parties with all the ingredients in sealed containers and a bundt-pan ice ring on the side. As soon as I assemble this Spiced Apple Cider Bourbon Punch, people start swarming it. I overheard folks saying, “did you get any of that punch?” and they kept going back for seconds.
One thing that I love about serving punch is that people can serve themselves. As a host, you have so much to do. Items in the oven, people ringing the doorbell, kids running around, music to turn up or down…it’s really hard to keep up with refreshing every person’s beverage. With a huge ladle and cute little crystal glasses, guests will feel fancy enough serving themselves whenever they want. This is just one of the beauties of punch. If you like the idea of this one, I also have a Orange CranPom Sparkling Punch with Thyme that you could whip up. Or if you’re open to the idea of single-serve beverages, my Gin Ginger Beet Cocktail and Simple Egg Nog Cocktail are also some of my seasonal favorites.
Bringing Sanity to Holiday Entertaining
This time of year is always insane. Each year I try to figure out how to make December more enjoyable despite the chaos. One thing that works well is batching all tasks. Like shopping early; I have my list and I try to knock it out all in one day. Then I wrap all at once. I do Christmas cards all at once (and I order on Black Friday for a good deal). I bake all at once. Batching tasks works wonders for streamlining the holidays.
Other things I do to make my life a little easier include scheduling in workouts for the whole month so I have that commitment. I plan my menus ahead weekly so I’ve got food – aside from the cookies and candy that seem to be everywhere I turn. I also try to pick recipes that are quick and easy – make-ahead capability is a huge bonus. For my Spiced Apple Cider Bourbon Punch, you actually have to make it ahead. Even the day before is great. That gives you time to batch a couple other tasks and still look like a pro at making holiday punch! And best of all, you won’t be scrambling to get to the party because you’ll be prepared. (Sigh of December relief)
This year I got up a tip sheet for having a stress-free (or less stress rather) holiday. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Spiced Apple Cider Bourbon Punch
When you’re making this punch, be sure to start early by making the ice ring. You could use ice cubes but the ring melts at the perfect pace and it’s so beautiful. Simply pour hot water into a bundt pan and freeze it! This recipe calls for adding in apple rounds but you can also put in some cranberries or even the cinnamon sticks from the cider to make it even more festive.
Next, you boil the cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and apples which creates a balanced, flavorful base. Cider already has these flavors but when you boil these ingredients all together, it really creates a rich base for the punch. Once you bring the mixture to a boil and set it aside to cool for a few minutes, you can add in the honey and stir it until it dissolves. At that point, once it’s cool, I’ll put it in a container and bring it that way to the party. Sometimes, if I have leftover cider, I’ll bring it for very simple refills and so as not to waste the rest of the cider. While boiling these ingredients together is ideal, using regular cider is an option, depending on what your life is like.
Once you’re going to assemble the punch, simply pour in the cider mixture and top it with bourbon. This is a sweet, flavorful drink so make sure to warn your guests; it’s potent but not very alcohol-forward in taste. But it’s IN there. I also recommend not getting a very expensive bourbon. As you know, the price point can be high on some bottles but if you’re mixing it with a bunch of cider and other flavors, it’s not necessary to have an incredible quality of alcohol. It’s kind of like my apple cider wine spritzer or carrot turmeric mimosas. You COULD use a fancy champagne but why? You want to drink that on it’s own, really.
Top off the whole concoction with sparkling water and the ice ring and you’re ready to go! Make sure to keep an eye on the punch and add a bit more cider, sparkling water, or bourbon…depending on the crowd.
Make sure to let me know if you try this one! Enjoy your holiday –
- 3 cups hot water
- 2 honey-crisp or gala apples (divided: one cut into thin wedges, one cut into thin rounds)
- 6 cups apple cider
- 4 whole cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup honey
- 25 ounces bourbon
- 6 fresh lemons (juiced with seeds removed)
- 4 cups soda water
- Pour hot water into a bundt pan and add apple rings (cut in half if needed to make them fit). Place in the freezer for 3-5 hours until completely frozen. If you don't use the entire apple, save some of the rings.
- Place apple wedges, cider, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. Pour mixture into a large bowl and stir in honey until dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Overnight is fine, too.
- Strain cider into a punch-bowl. Save cinnamon sticks for garnish. Add bourbon and lemon juice and stir to combine. Pour in soda water then place ice ring in bowl and garnish with additional apple rings and left over cinnamon sticks.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
Thanks for visiting! If you’re like me: obsessed with eating, wine, going out and traveling, you’re in the right place. Champagne Nutrition® LLC is a Registered Dietitian-run concierge virtual practice helping clients look and feel better. On this blog, you’ll ﬁnd cocktails, mocktails, and plant-based recipes that are easy to make quickly at home and pack for leftovers on your adventures.