This month I'm revisiting two of my favorites: holiday punch (a December classic) and, yes, the Negroni. I was fortunate enough to visit Paris last month, and while there, I had a "Wake Me Up Negroni" at a lounge called Readymade in the Palais de Tokyo museum – a light Negroni mixed with café Americano and served in a ceramic cup over one large ice cube. It did, in fact, wake me up ... which was a good thing, because we had a 10 p.m. dinner reservation. But the clarity of the drink stuck with me, and the way the Campari, vermouth and coffee melded into a whole greater than the sum of its parts, so I made a note to try and re-create it at home.
Meanwhile, December is the month most likely to see a gathering in your home, and punch is both traditional and easy on hosts. The thought had crossed my mind before Thanksgiving that since I love Negronis so much, maybe the easiest possible punch would just be a giant-format Negroni: a bowl filled with a fifth each of Campari, gin and sweet vermouth, with a great big ice ring to help dilute the drink.
This was a truly terrible idea.
I don't know what they called it where you went to high school – trashcan punch, jungle juice, spodie-odie, or whatever – but a tub of liquor is a tub of liquor. While a punch bowl of Campari and Carpano Antica may be more sophisticated than a plastic bucket of Bacardi and Everclear, the results are much the same. And adding coffee to that mix just leads to Red Bull and vodka syndrome: It keeps stupid-drunk people awake long enough to do more stupid things before they pass out.
So, back to the drawing board. A Negroni-inspired punch needed more input from the traditional punch side of the equation, so I called on classic citrus and a light amount of bubbly – not enough to make a truly fizzy drink, just enough to add sparkle.
I also tweaked the proportions, an abomination to those who worship the Negroni's perfect 1:1:1 recipe, but a necessity in this case. And last, as a nod to that Parisian "Wake-Me-Up," I've added a caffeinated variation for the night owls.
5 cups gin, chilled
3 cups Campari, chilled
2 cups sweet vermouth, chilled
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 1/2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 750-milliliter bottle cava or prosecco, chilled
ice ring (optional)
a lemon and an orange, sliced thinly
First, make the ice ring: At least 24 hours before you plan to serve the punch, fill a bundt pan, cake tin or even just a medium-sized Tupperware style container (I use a star-shaped cake tin from IKEA) with filtered water and set carefully in the freezer. Alternatively, you can use four cups of ice, but the punch will be diluted much faster that way.
Just before the party: Place the frozen ice mold in a large punch bowl. Pour over gin, Campari, vermouth and the fruit juices and mix gently. Add the sparkling wine, carefully float the citrus slices on top (but not too carefully; they won't stay there for long) and serve in small cups with additional ice.
Coffee variation: Omit the lime juice and one of the cups of gin, and add two cups of a good-quality cold-brew coffee concentrate. Add 10 dashes of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters. Garnish with two oranges, sliced thin.