5 Winter Punch Cocktail Recipes for the Holidays

You guys, guess what season it is? Okay, so yes, if you guessed that it is Eggnog latte season and Elf on the Shelf season, then you’re technically right. But I’m talking about the season of winter punch for the holidays. And yes, winter punch is totally a thing.

The classic punch bowl, or in my case, punch pitcher, is my secret weapon for BBQs, get-togethers and parties, whether it’s the holidays or not. Part of my interest in punch, comes from who I’d call the foremost cocktail historian, David Wondrich, who wrote a great history-steeped book, calledPunch. In it, Wondrich includes recipes for tons of punch recipes, many of which are decades, if not centuries old. That, plus at get-togethers and parties, I don’t feel like shaking 5,000 cocktails. 

I love this time of year, the holidays for punch, because there are so many flavors and ingredients that you’d generally only use now. It’s the season of some of my favorite drinks, like a milk punch, as well as ciders and more. So in my latest cocktail recipe post, I’m sharing a few of my favorite winter punch recipes.

New England Express

  • 2 cups apple cider

  • 1 1/2 cups dark rum

  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice

  • 1 tsp. Angostura bitters

  • Club soda

  • Thyme simple syrup

  • Several sprigs thyme

  • Several lime slices

This was one of the first successful punches I made, and it’s now become a go-to holiday punch for several years running. It’s altogether simple, yet complex in flavor, delicious and easy to make. Coming from Bon Appétit Magazine(photo below by Marcus Nilsson), you'll first make the thyme simple syrup by bringing one-third of a cup of sugar and one-third of a cup of water to a boil, and then add several sprigs of thyme and let it stand for 15 minutes. Once it’s cooled, add the thyme syrup, cider, rum, lime juice, and bitters to a pitcher and mix. Pour into glasses filled with ice and top with club soda, and garnish with sprigs of thyme and lime wheels.


Milk Punch

  • 1.5 oz. bourbon

  • .5 oz. rum

  • 2 oz. milk or creamer (in this case, French vanilla creamer)

  • 3/4 tsp. of vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp. of superfine sugar

  • Grated nutmeg

This isn’t a punch bowl per se, but it is a punch in name, and one of the most famous holiday drinks, milk punch. What I love about the milk punch is that it’s so versatile. You can use cognac, rum, bourbon, tequila, or in this case, a combination of bourbon and rum. The most recent version of a milk punch, I actually did with coconut milk, and then topped with grated pumpkin pie spice. Yes, it was freakin’ delicious. To make this version, inspired by Arnaud’s French 75 in New Orleans, you’ll combine all the ingredients (except nutmeg) into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Then strain it into a rocks glass with ice and top with grated nutmeg.

milk punch cocktail.JPG

Hot Bourbon Cider Punch

  • 20 oz. hard apple cider

  • 8 oz. whiskey

  • 6-8 oz. ginger beer

  • Several Cinnamon sticks

  • Half a lemon, sliced

  • Several thin red apple slices

  • 8 cloves

  • 2 oz. honey

This is one of my favorite all-time cocktails I’ve come up with. It’s simple, delicious, warming, dangerous and a crowd favorite. Honestly, I haven’t done exact measurements in quite a while, but this is pretty close to the original recipe I started with, which I’ll typically double for a get-together. To make it, I add everything into a slow cooker and heat on low. While it’s heating, I press the lemon and apple slices with a muddler to release the juices. I typically heat it for an hour or so, and then keep it on warm for people to serve themselves out of the slow cooker. If you’re short on time, or don’t have a slow cooker, then you can just heat on a stove, but make sure you don’t bring it to a boil, but heat at a low temperature.

Hot Cider

18th-Century Rum Punch 

This punch comes courtesy of David Wondrich, one of the foremost cocktail experts, via Epicurious. I wholeheartedly vouch for it, having made it several times, including this past Thanksgiving, in which there wasn’t a drop left at the end of the day. If you want to wow friends and making some home bar magic happen, then this is the punch to make for the holidays. 

You’ll first make what’s called oleo-saccharum, an old school mixology trick of combining sugar and citrus peels, which therefore extracts oil from the peels. In this case, you do that by peeling 3-4 lemons, and placing the peels into a mason jar with 3/4 cup of sugar. You'll then seal it, shake it around and let it sit in the sun (yes, seriously) for several hours. Once you're ready to make the punch, you'll add the 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice into the mason jar with the sugar and peels, and stir or shake it until the sugar has dissolved. Finally, add the lemon juice, peels and sugar to a pitcher or punch bowl, adding a bottle of rum, four cups of water and ice. Finally, top it with a little grated nutmeg and serve.

Photo from Epicurious by Chelsea Kyle

Photo from Epicurious by Chelsea Kyle

Champagne Punch

  • 1 bottle of Champagne

  • 5 ounces orange liqueur

  • Few dashes of bitters

  • Cranberries

This is possibly the easiest punch ever, and is really great any time of year, but especially for New Year’s Eve. And did I mention how easy it is? To make it, you’ll simply add all the ingredients to a punch bowl or recipe. And that’s it! Personally, I like adding cranberries that I’ve kept in the freezer.