An old-fashioned Christmas punch served on Christmas Eve or at holiday parties can evoke as many happy memories as Grandma's cookies and candies. Whether it's a wassail or a fluffy sherbet concoction, the holiday drink often appears only at Christmastime.
We asked three outstanding cooks in Central Kentucky to share their holiday punch recipes. Why not give one, or all of them, a try this holiday season?
James Snowden, Lexington
James Snowden of Lexington serves a milk punch — a creamy frozen concoction with dark rum and brandy — at his holiday open house each year. Snowden, an owner of Finderskeepers Market — which recently moved to Walton Avenue in Lexington from Mount Sterling — said he can't remember where he discovered the original recipe, "but I have since tweaked it a bit to make it my own. It is now an annual tradition at Finderskeepers Market, and all of our clients look forward to it each year."
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"Unlike a traditional egg nog or egg cream, this recipe does not spoil quickly," he said. "In fact, it can be kept slushy in your freezer for up to a month for those unexpected holiday guests.
"I enjoy it because its flavors remind me of an old-school snow cream. It certainly packs a punch, but even those that don't normally enjoy alcoholic beverages become quick fans."
Betty Givan, Richmond
Betty Givan of Richmond, host of Betty's Kitchen on YouTube, has several punch recipes in her collection, but her recipe for the non-alcoholic Christmas cherry-pineapple punch is reserved for this special time of year.
"This is my most sentimental punch recipe, because my family made it for Christmas as I was growing up. I was the youngest of six children raised on a dairy farm, and our lives revolved around church, work and family.
"My mother came across the recipe at a Christmas potluck dinner at our church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Monticello. The punch is a bright red color and evokes the spirit of Christmas. This is an enduring recipe, enjoyed by my husband and daughter and her family, as much as it delighted my family when I was a child," she said.
Maggie Green, Lexington
Maggie Green, author of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, said when she was growing up in Lexington, her parents served punch from an antique coin-glass punch bowl. "They liked to use it, and that's why we drank a lot of punch. Also, punch was an easy way to serve a crowd," she said.
"I am lucky to own my father's cookbook collection, and this punch recipe was tucked in one of the bartender books. This is his adaptation of Pendennis Club champagne punch once made famous by the recipe in Out of Kentucky Kitchens.
"Dad made this punch on Christmas, and on any other occasion where a large crowd of people gathered in our Lexington home. It welcomed travelers and, according to my uncle Harvey, made 'socks roll down around ankles.'"
The sparkling citrus punch can be made with a choice of spirits.
"I prefer the punch with triple sec, although crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) was Dad's favorite."
Finderskeepers' holiday milk punch
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 gallon whole milk
Grated nutmeg (optional)
Dissolve sugar in rum, brandy and vanilla extract in a large, heavy pitcher. Add milk, and freeze until very cold and slushy, about 4 to 8 hours. (Can be frozen for a month.) Pour into glasses, grate nutmeg over each glass, if desired, and serve.
Christmas cherry-pineapple punch
2 small packages cherry Jello
1 package cherry Kool-Aid
2 cups sugar
4 cups boiling water
6 cups water
2 large cans unsweetened pineapple juice
2 quarts (a 2-liter bottle) ginger ale
In a large punch bowl, dissolve cherry Jello, Kool-Aid and sugar in boiling water. Add 6 cups water, unsweetened pineapple juice and ginger ale. Stir completely. Chill in the refrigerator.
Carl's Pendennis Club punch
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup sugar
21/2 cups brandy, chilled
11/2 cups triple sec or crème de cassis, chilled
Three 750-ml bottles dry or sparkling white wine, chilled
Orange, lemon, or lime slices for garnish
In a pitcher, stir together the orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and sugar. Mix well to dissolve sugar and refrigerate to chill. Pour juice into a punch bowl or large container. Add brandy, triple sec and sparkling wine. Stir to mix. Serve immediately.