The thing I love most about my craft is the opportunity to share it with those I love. However, I try to strike a balance between being a good hostess, creating imaginative cocktails and actually enjoying the company of my loved ones. The best way I've found to accomplish all of those things is to create cocktails in punch form. You can make a punch fit any style of party by adjusting the presentation. This particular creation is meant for a festive holiday gathering.
Before we get to the drink itself, let's talk ice. Typical cloudy ice cubes just aren't the most attractive thing to look at and tend to melt fairly quickly due to the air bubbles they contain. You can always cover them up with punch garnishes such as flowers and citrus fruit but there's another, fairly effortless alternative: use a silicon bundt cake pan to make a decorative ring of ice. I picked this one up on Amazon for under $12 and was so impressed with the result. It didn't take too long to freeze (I made mine overnight), looked lovely, and melted slowly. You can fill yours with herbs and fruit if you wish, but I found that doing so discolored the ice and therefore added my garnish separately.
I had picked up a bottle of Far North Solveig Gin while travelling to Duluth, Minnesota and wanted to incorporate it into a festive cocktail that did the beautiful bottle justice. Aside from the eye-catching branding, the gin is really well done. It's made with winter rye grain and features citrus, pine, lavender, thyme and coriander flavors. While I always appreciate a straightforward gin, I get so excited to see distilleries playing with different grains and unique botanicals.
The typical ingredient used for festive holiday color is the cranberry, but I wanted to explore an alternative and settled on concord grapes for both their high pigmentation and rich flavor. You may liken concord grapes to typical "grape" flavor but the fresh fruit is so much brighter and sweeter. I bought them at the height of their freshness and chose to preserve them in syrup form. I added rosemary to the syrup for a savory aromatic note and to complement the botanicals of the gin.
To finish off the cocktail, I added fragrant Meyer lemon juice and Cava, a Spanish variety of sparkling wine. I prefer to use lower cost sparkling wines when I'm adding them to cocktails instead of enjoying them on their own. The Cava category tends to offer a good selection of low cost options with a nice citrus flavor that doesn't steal the show. The resulting punch is wonderfully festive, fragrant and sweet-tart. While it features gin as the main spirit it's got enough other flavors in tow to appeal even to gin skeptics.
Festive Pines Punch
Ratios for 1 serving (scale up as needed):
- 1 oz gin
- 2 oz Cava sparkling wine
- 0.5 oz concord grape rosemary syrup*
- 0.25 oz Meyer lemon
- Fresh rosemary, for garnish
Chill ingredients prior to serving. Scale up the recipe as needed and combine all ingredients other than garnish in a punch bowl over a ring of ice. Stir to chill and combine and then garnish with fresh rosemary. Enjoy with holiday cookies and good cheer.
* To make syrup, combine 1 lb grapes, 3 cups water and 1 cup sugar in a medium pot. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add 3 sprigs of rosemary. Simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally, then strain and allow to cool. Store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.