How To Make Punch

Can you guess the way to my heart?

No, it is not flowers.

Or the talking oven mitt from that Arby’s commercial.

It is not even a pair of over-sized novelty sunglasses.

Nope. As much as I like those things, the real and true way to my heart is punch. You know why? Because punch is fun and communal and has alcohol in it. I like fun and community and alcohol. I like them so much, I would probably even go to church once in a while if it had a bar and a ping-pong table.

But the problem with punch is that it has always intimidated me. I’ve never been overjoyed with any that I’ve invented myself. Contrary to how you perceive me, dear friends, I do not excel at everything. (That was a joke. I’m pretty sure you know that.) At any rate, I’ve found Punch difficult in the past. Punch wears all black and never makes eye contact with me. Punch smokes in the bathroom and writes backwards and falls asleep in class. I love Punch, but I don’t “get” Punch.

The Tipsy Texan gets Punch. So guess how excited I was when David offered to come show me how to make punch! I will tell you: I was VERY excited. Not only would you and I both get a lesson in punch-making, I would also have the chance to hobnob with one of the greatest cocktail minds of our time — or if not hobnob with, at least hiccup at.

Here is the special birthday punch he created for HilahCooking’s first birthday. I would have taken a picture but I was too busy drinking. These measurements made enough for our small party, but double it if you have more friends than I do.


How To Make Punch

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  • Author: Hilah Johnson


  • 8 ounces rum
  • 4 ounces cognac
  • 3 ounces applejack
  • 1 ounce pear liqueur
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 7 lemons
  • 1.52 pints water (we used 1.5)
  • Ice block


  1. How To Make It:
  2. Zest the lemons into a bowl with the sugar. Zest means no white part! Only yellow part! Use a vegetable peeler for quick work. Muddle (or “mash”) the zest around with the sugar until the sugar looks damp and the peels are all covered in sugar. The point is to get the essential oil out of the lemons (and into your liver, eventually). This is called oleo saccharum, or sweet oil; set it aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Juice the lemons and measure about 5 ounces of juice. Strain that into the oleo saccharum and stir it wildly and with abandon. Just kidding. I mean, stir it thoroughly and have some self-control. Once that is dissolved, strain out the lemon peels.
  4. Add all your boozes. Like David said, if you have no pear liqueur, use apple; if you have no rum, use whiskey; if you have no friends, more punch for you. Mix it all around again. Add the water. Taste it and see if you want to add more lemon or sugar. Plop in the ice block and stir it around to chill it. Cheers!

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To make an Ice Block

Easy way: get an empty paper milk or juice carton and rinse it out. Fill it with water and freeze it. It will probably take 8 hours to plan ahead. Then just peel or cut the paper off once it’s frozen to reveal a giant rectangular ice block.

Fancy way: get a jello mold or a bundt pan or similar fancy-looking cake pan. Fill it 1/2 or 1/3 of the way with water and freeze that. Put some lemon slices on the surface, add another inch of water and freeze again. Fill it up the rest of the way and freeze again. This takes a little more attention than the easy way but not really any more time. To get it out, run the outside of the pan under warm water and then just bop it out.



  1. Great Stone Face on January 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    So, are you infusing the sugar or macerating the lemon peel? Potayto, potahto. Looks delicious. Maybe I’ll make it for our next card party, if we can keep the cat out of it.

    • Hilah Cooking on January 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      Try it! It’s wonderful and maybe your cat would even like it!
      P.S. You misspelled potato.

      • Great Stone Face on March 3, 2011 at 10:41 pm

        Making the punch for this Saturday. Here’s more info than you’d care to know, since I’m pumped on a Starbucks redeye.

        We are hosting euchre this month. Need advice on quantities & substitutions for the punch. Right now, the attendance is 14-20 people. (Designated drivers: everyone’s from the neighborhood, but most will drive here.) I’ll put out a couple bottles of wine, and other people bring wine or beer as they choose.

        Suggestion: Go to Costco for a bag of lemons. I can make lemonade with the leftovers. (Hey, how about a lemonade, limeade, lime rickey episode?)

        How much punch should I make for 14-20 people? Your recipe is for 4 people, so I expect to triple or quadruple it. (Not looking forward to zesting 28 lemons. Sort of like being in the Army.)
        What could I use instead of pear liqueur (Aqua Perfecta)? I’ve got the Jamaican rum and cognac. I found peach brandy to use instead of applejack. We have state ABC stores in Virginia, so there are limited selections. The guy at the liquor store suggested pear vodka. Or I could go non-alcoholic and use pear nectar. Or should I skip it? What do you think?

        • Great Stone Face on March 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm

          Just got the final expected count — 16 people. Should I triple or quadruple? Pear liqueur substitute?

          • Hilah Cooking on March 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm

            OMG So many questions! Sorry, I was in a boring seminar all day LONG yesterday! I hope it’s not too late for you!

            Quadruple it for sure. (You can keep any leftover in the fridge for a couple of days. Sunday punch breakfast!)

            Okay, for the liqueur substitute I’d go with peach or apricot liqueur. A flavored vodka would be my last pick, but nectar would be good — and also make it slightly less alcoholic so…your call.

          • Great Stone Face on March 5, 2011 at 3:20 pm

            I figured you were busy, so I really appreciate you getting back t me. Sorry about going on & on. As I said, I was wired on a Starbucks redeye at the time.

            There was so much brandy in the punch anyway, so I opted for nonalcoholic for these last 4 oz. The pear nectar has so many non-pear contents; I instead used organic 100% pear juice.

            The punch is in the fridge chilling. I’ll add the filtered water before serving. The lemon-slice iceblock is in the freezer. The folks show up at 7pm. I know they’ll love the punch. Thanks again for your great blog/videocast!

          • Hilah Cooking on March 5, 2011 at 6:07 pm

            Yay! Have a great time tonight! 🙂

          • Great Stone Face on March 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm

            By the way, zesting and muddling the peels of 28 lemons builds muscles!

          • Great Stone Face on March 6, 2011 at 12:07 am

            Thanks for the recipe and advice. Here is the finished product and the photo gallery. The guests arrive in a half-hour.

  2. Laurel on January 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I like the way you cook.

    • Hilah Cooking on January 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks, hotstuff.

  3. Randy on January 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Years ago I bought a large bundt pan and have never used it to make a cake. I was on the verge of giving it away until the first time I made punch and used it to make a big chunk of ice. Adding lemon slices is a great idea!

    BTW, both of David Wondrich’s books (Imbibe is the other one) should owned by anyone interested in booze. He’s also the “curator” of the Drinks Database:

    • Hilah Cooking on January 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Oh, Randy! Thanks for the link. That is an awesome site!

  4. Libby on January 19, 2011 at 1:58 am

    3:41 Best. Face. Ever.

    • Hilah Cooking on January 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks, Libby! It’s nice to meet you.

  5. Cat on January 20, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I love your punchbowl! That must have been a rare find…

    Also why can the cameraman not have punch? Was he bad?

    • Hilah Cooking on January 20, 2011 at 1:02 am

      It was! David said he found it at Goodwill! It’s not mine. boohoo 🙁
      And that was a joke! Of course he can have punch – even if he is bad.

  6. Jack on January 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I don’t get it. Why do oleosaccharumifying? Doesn’t it have the same net effect as mixing in “a buncha lemons and sugar”? I get that we want quality but doesn’t the alcohol, like, overpower the infusationing flavor anyway?

    I’m not saying I’m too lazy to do it, OH NO I’m NOT.

    No words were harmed in the making of this comment.

    • Hilah Cooking on January 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

      Well, it gives extra lemony flavor without extra acidity. Plus, it’s FUN! 🙂

  7. Great Stone Face on January 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I googled it. In this recent blog post by Sonya Moore, she tells how cocktail historian (What a great gig!) Dave Wondrich explains it:

    “Dave, also explained of the use of a mixture of sugar and oils, oleo saccharum, in old cocktails. Citrus wasn’t always a common commodity, and to stretch the use of citrus, rather than relying on just the juice of a lemon or lime, the peel, or zest, along with sugar was used to get maximum citrus flavor out of each piece of fruit you used. For anyone who’s read Dave’s “Imbibe!” this should be familiar in the use of rough loaf sugar in the old punch recipes he featured. These gritty pieces of sugar would be rubbed all over a lemon or lime to sort of grate the zest, but also absorb the oils, infusing the sugar with flavor and scent.”

    • Hilah Cooking on January 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      Sooo…basically I was RIGHT! Thanks, GSF!

  8. Josh on January 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    this sounds deeelish! I may have to try a warm drink instead since it’s frickin 9 degrees in Chicago. Perhaps I’ll go for the Hot Buttered Rum!

    btw I know comparisons so celebrities can be lame, but you totally remind me of Phoebe from Friends at times. That’s an enormous compliment in my book ; )

    • Hilah Cooking on January 22, 2011 at 12:28 am

      DUDE. You just blew my mind. Fucking warm that shit UP! It would totally be like a hot toddy but even better.
      Also, Lisa Kudrow is amazing and I would date her if we were both gay so, thanks!

      • Jack on January 23, 2011 at 3:55 am

        Dude you’re totally hotter than Lisa Kudrow. But both married, so I will have to find another actress. I’m totally going to hit on Scarlett Johansson over some punch at our next mixer together.

        • Hilah Cooking on January 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm

          Yeah, I heard she likes punch. Good luck!

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