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Book Lust: The Punch Bowl

The Punch Bowl
Dan Searing (author)
Sterling Epicure, $14.95, 187 pgs.

Why I'm squeezing it into my overloaded bookshelf:  These punches are nothing like that electric red concoction you drank out of a trashcan in a damp basement in college. Dan Searing's, The Punch Bowl contains 75 recipes of classic punches that span four centuries of sophisticated imbibing. The book provides a quick and colorful history of punch, as well as a brief history of each drink. The recipes are divided into spirit categories, plus chapters on milk and tea punches. A punch prepared in advance is a dream for any party host, and this book has the perfect tipple for any occasion.

I especially love:  The photos of stunning antique punch bowls; I'm now scanning every antique shop and thrift store so I can artfully present a punch at my next party. As the poetry and verses penned in the 1700's attest, punch has long been considered a point of pride and skill among entertainers. Searing provides all the necessary tips and tricks for concocting a punch that will wow your guests. Ladled from an exquisite bowl brimming with an intoxicating libation of high-quality spirits, complex sweeteners, fresh juice and citrus, exotic aromatics, and decorative garnishes, punch has the power to unify a crowd around its alluring flavor and storied past.

What's a bit annoying:  This book stays true to the tradition of classic punches by using quality ingredients. While punch can definitely be budget friendly (especially compared to stocking a full bar), some recipes require expensive and hard-to-find liquor. But for drinkers intrigued with the stories of these recipes, seeking out unusual spirits and ingredients will be part of the fun.

The next recipe I'll make:  Looking out my window at bare branches and a flurry of fallen leaves, I'm craving dark spirits, warm spices, and rich caramel. Pickin' Punch, made with apple cider, dark rum, applejack, scotch, apples, and cinnamon sticks would be perfect on a chilly night. And because the season for piling citrus into my grocery cart is arriving, I can't wait for the chance to make the Yellowbelly Punch with tangerine and grapefruit juice, honey syrup, Jim Beam Rye, and Dolin Rouge Vermouth. According to the intro, this punch tastes like "a Manhattan wintering in Miami." Sold.

Caroline Ford is a food stylist, writer & recipe developer in Portland, OR. More of her writing can be found on her blog: Food. Write. Style. 

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