The Year's Top Cocktails, Along With a Trio of Holiday Punches
It's time to celebrate with a recap of the year's best drinking.
I’m all for keeping it simple and easy around the holidays. Okay, who am I kidding? Given my praise of lazy bartending, I’m for keeping it simple and easy year all year round. I’ve never been one for molecular mixology, housemade bitters, fat washing, overwrought infusions, or trying to re-create vermouths and liqueurs that someone in Europe already made (usually better) centuries ago.
Generally, I’m happy to just open a good-value sparkling wine—cava and lambrusco are at the top of my list this year. I’m even happier to sit back and let someone else make me a daiquiri or Martinez or Cosmo.
To that end, I’m recommending that you make one of my go-to punches for this year’s holiday gatherings. Either a strawberry-kissed Jamaican rum punch, an esoteric punch that features pear eau de vie, or a historic punch that features sherry, Cognac, and Sauternes. All are unique crowd pleasers, but they’re super simple to batch up ahead of time (scroll down for the recipes).
But today’s newsletter isn’t about me and what I like. This is mainly a recap of Everyday Drinking’s most popular cocktail content of 2022. These are Top-5 most-viewed cocktail articles—the ones you liked best, dear readers.
Everyday Drinking’s Top Cocktail Stories of the Year
No surprises here. Y’all love the Negroni, in all its glorious variations. I do, too, with my favorite variation being the Cyn-Cin I mentioned in this August newsletter.
When the Queen died in September, we talked about her favorite cocktail, made with an ingredient too often forgotten. The Dubonnet cocktail went back into regular rotation at my house.
I was happy to witness Gen Z’s “discovery” of the martini this year, and was glad to revisit some favorite variations, including the Turf Club and the Ideal Cocktail in this article.
The readers’ passion for aquavit did come as a bit of a surprise, but I was here for it. Especially in inventive cocktails like the 866, along with Campari and grapefruit juice.
Like me, you all seem to crave simplicity when it comes to cocktails. So it makes sense that the Spanish soda-plus-wine cocktails, such as the Calimocho (red wine + cola) and Rebujito (sherry + 7-Up), were a hit in this piece that ran back in June.
Finally, My Favorite Cocktail Piece of the Year That No One Read
Salty Dogs make me happy, and if I had to choose one fruit as a cocktail ingredient, it would be the grapefruit. ICYMI (which most of you did, btw).
A TRIO OF PUNCHES FOR THE HOLIDAY
Light Guard Punch
With Sauternes, sherry, and Cognac, this is a perfect holiday punch for people with esoteric tastes. It’s easy and extravagant at the same time. And it’s a historic recipe, with the original appearing in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 classic The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks. This version is from Dan Searing in his book The Punch Bowl, one of the most underrated cocktail guides of the last decade and a favorite of mine. Besides Sauternes, other botrytised sweet wines also work well. Methode traditionnelle sparkling wine is the way to go in cocktails like this. It’s a very generous and flexible recipe that serves about a dozen, but is also easy to double since you’ve already got the Sauternes and sherry open and the pineapple chopped.
Half a pineapple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
375 ml (half bottle) Sauternes (or similar botrytised sweet wine)
375 ml (half bottle) fino or manzanilla sherry
375 ml (half bottle) Cognac VSOP or similar brandy
1 bottle sparkling wine
Lemons, cut into thin slices, for garnish
Combine the pineapple, sherry, Cognac and sweet wine in a large bowl or pitcher. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. If you want more pineapple flavor, you can gently the muddle the pineapple before adding the wines and the Cognac.
Have a large punch bowl and glasses ready. Just before serving, fill about one-third of the punch bowl with ice, stir gently. Pour a ladleful of the mixture from the punch bowl into each glass (about 2-3 ounces), then top each with sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon slice.
Hans Punch Up
This punch is always a crowd-pleaser when I bring it to holiday parties. Created by Washington, DC bartender Adam Bernbach, it’s named for a guy that Adam got into a fight with one New Year's Eve. Pretty much any sparkling wine will work, but probably something methode traditionelle is best (Cava would be great). Be sure to use pear eau de vie or Poire Williams—not pear liqueur, which will render this cloyingly sweet.
16 ounces clear pear brandy
16 ounces honey syrup (make this like simple syrup but with honey)
8 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 ounces sparkling wine
8 mint sprigs, for garnish
Combine the pear brandy, honey syrup, lemon juice, and bitters in a large glass pitcher. Add about a cup of ice and and stir vigorously.
To serve, fill 8 glasses with ice; divide the punch among them and top each one with a splash of sparkling wine. Stir gently, and garnish each with a mint sprig
This recipe dates from the 17th century and is beautifully pink. The strawberry syrup and the allspice add a layer of complexity to what is a refreshing quaff. Be sure to use a white, unaged rum. Yes, fresh strawberries are hard to come by this time of year, but frozen whole or sliced berries work just fine! Note: Make the strawberry syrup ahead of time because it must be cooled completely. It can be made up to a week in advance. Recipe adapted from The Punch Bowl, by Dan Searing.
Freshly squeezed juice from 8 or 9 limes (1 cup)
2 cups strawberry syrup (see recipe below)
3 cups white rum
3 to 4 cups water
2 to 3 pinches ground allspice
Combine the lime juice and strawberry syrup in a punch bowl or pitcher until well blended. Slowly add the rum, stirring constantly. Add the water 1 cup at a time, tasting as you go. Stop at 3 cups of water if you prefer a stronger punch. Season with the allspice to taste. Refrigerate until well chilled. Serve in punch cups or rocks glasses filled with ice. Garnish with strawberry slices.
To make strawberry syrup: Combine 2 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar and 6 to 8 sliced and hulled medium strawberries in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool completely. Strain out and discard the strawberry slices before using. Cover tightly and refrigerate for several weeks or more.