Holiday Punch Recipe

Not sure what to make for the big party? Punch is your friend.

We like punch.

Punch is the great melting pot, except that it's cold. Cold and delicious and long-lasting and beautifully forgiving.

Punch is where all those nice bottles of booze at the back of your bar can go and live in happy harmony. Dark rum, get to know Campari.

Punch is like some handsome winning Formula One driver: Pour a cold bottle of Champagne all over it and it just smiles.

"It's a long-format drink," says punch partisan Brad Farran, formerly of Brooklyn's Clover Club and now head bartender at Garland in Raleigh, NC, which reopened after renovations two weeks ago.

"It evolves over time and just gets friendlier as the ice dilutes it. It's a great party drink as it's easy on the host and saves you from having to mix drinks while trying to entertain."

Farran advises icing down the bowl early. "Give the punch a chance to achieve its prime mellowness when your guests arrive."

You can't have punch without a hunk of ice, sparkling wine, citrus and a trusty ladle.

We advise filling a big punch bowl for your guests this New Year's Eve. Try Jungle Bird Punch, devised by chef Brendan McHale in our Test Kitchen (see the recipe).

For pretty, floating iceberg-style ice, freeze water in a big Tupperware-like container the night before. The lid on the container makes it easy to get it into the freezer without spills.

As your friends drain the bowl (a good sign), you can just pour in whatever bottles you've got on-hand and top with more sparkling wine.

"It's definitely more like cooking than baking," Farran notes. "You're not going to ruin anything by pouring in more liquor."

Got leftover punch? Pour it into bottles; it saves well in the fridge and gets more interesting as it ages.

But really, if you've got leftover punch, you might resolve to find new party guests for the New Year.