Whenever my parents had parties back in the 1970s, my mother often made punch; it was fancier than Kool-Aid and she could jazz it up for grown-ups. One of her favorite holiday punches for kids included pastel-colored rainbow sherbet, orange juice and a couple of bottles of ginger ale. And no matter what, she always made an ice ring for the punchbowl, with more of the juice from the punchbowl plus some sliced oranges.
When I had my kids and we started hosting holiday parties, I copied the ice ring idea, and jazzed it up even more. I started with a pale juice base—lemonade or Champagne—and added a different colored ice ring, with cranberry or pomegranate juice. As the ice melted, it kept the punch cold, added flavor, and looked pretty. Whole cranberries and limes, pomegranate arils and lemon slices, whole berries and orange slices: They all look pretty floating in a bowl of punch, and are not too gross to eat if you get one in your cup. (Warning: Some former in-laws of mine used to dump canned fruit cocktail into their punchbowl, and it was N-A-S-T-Y.)
The DIY is easy: On the morning of your party, start with a round gelatin mold or Bundt cake pan. Place sliced citrus and berries into the bottom of the mold and pour a scant half-inch to one inch of punch. Freeze. This will hold the berries and fruit in place. If you pour all the juice in at once, the fruit floats to the top, that is, the bottom of the ring when you unmold it. So do the partial-freeze method for success!
In about an hour the first layer of juice will have frozen. Pour in more punch, leaving about ¼ inch for expansion, put the ring back in the freezer and give it about two hours. If you want to get fancy, you can add a different color juice for the second layer. You can also use herbs like mint, rosemary or lemon thyme, or edible flowers such as nasturtiums or violas in plain water for an icy look. Thinly sliced cucumbers also freeze beautifully in an ice ring, for a Pimm’s Cup punchbowl.
To unmold, turn the molded ice ring over and run cold water over the metal mold. Hot water also works but will start to melt the ice, and you don’t need any help with that; it melts fast enough on its own! Cold water will loosen the ice, and a little shake will land the ice ring in your hand. Place it in the punch bowl, curved side up (bottom up). If you try to just dump the ice ring into the punchbowl, you’ll get a nice punchy splash on your tablecloth.
Now, instead of one of those scary 70s punches, try this. It’s sure to be a hit!
Spiced Whiskey Punch
- 1.5 oz. rye whiskey
- 1 oz. Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur
- 1.5 oz. orange juice
- 1 oz. pineapple juice
- ½ oz. agave syrup
Combine all ingredients in a container (multiply according to number of servings desired) and mix well. Serve chilled with the help of your festive ice ring. Cheers!