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Midnight Punch

By Lars Theriot

1 Bottle Pusser’s Rum
18 oz Ginger Beer
5 oz Grapefruit Juice
5 oz Grenadine

Combine everything in a punch bowl and stir
Add a large block of ice
Garnish with grapefruit rings, eyeballs, or as you see fit

Makes approximately thirteen 4 oz servings (plus more once the ice melts)

* * *

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

When Andy Williams sang that line, he was referring to Christmas… I sing it about Halloween.  In the early 70’s, when most kids were wearing out their vinyl copies of Led Zeppelin IV, I was listening to a collection of spooky tracks called “Sounds That Make You Shiver”.  Preparation for the Theriot Haunted House started (and continues to start) several weeks before October 31st.  The weather turns colder, the leaves shows their fall colors, darkness comes earlier with each passing day, and the Theriot house has begun its yearly lycanthropic transformation into a house of horrors.  Which means we are soon going to have guests… thirsty guests.

For years we used to throw a massive Halloween party, but we stopped when they started getting out of hand.  Then, I learned the theory and secrets behind a good punch.  Punch is designed to start off strong and weaken as the ice begins to melt and the night goes on.  The idea is that your guests are ingesting less alcohol at midnight than they were at eight o’clock.  Had I learned this lesson ten years ago, we might still be having those legendary parties.  Regardless, my reputation as the Halloween party guy led David to give me the opportunity to write about Midnight Punch (from “Boothby’s World Drinks“, 1934 reprint) here in the dead center of the 13 Days of Halloween.

has been a real revelation for me.  They call it the “single malt rum” for good reason, it’s as great straight as it is in a cocktail, or in this case, a punch.  Dark rum and Ginger Beer are famous bunkmates (we haven’t done a Dark N’ Stormy on 12BB, but they are legendary).  Suffice it to say this drink is fantastic.  It’s uncomplicated and simple to thrown together.  Be sure to make it with fresh grapefruit juice and homemade (or an upscale brand of) Grenadine.  You will definitely notice the difference.

A note on Ginger Ale/Ginger Beer.  I wanted to use Vernors for our testing session but the supermarket I visited only had Canada Dry.  Having tasted the Canada Dry version of this punch, I would definitely recommend against using a weaker Ginger Ale like C.D. or Schweppes unless you have no other options — it simply can’t stand up to the rum.  Vernors is much stronger and sharper and works so much better.  David prefers Reed’s Ginger Brew and has made the punch with it to great success.  Whatever you choose, pick something with some bite to it.  It will make all the difference.  Of course, feel free to adjust the amount to suit your taste.

Finally, ice…  Dilution is a key ingredient to an alcohol-based punch.  You want the ice in your punch to weaken the brew over the course of the night, but how you handle the ice makes a world of difference.  It would be silly to spend time crafting a perfect punch and then do something like toss in a bunch of ice cubes made out of tap water.  Use bottled water.  The best way to go is to is with a single block or ring (made in a Bundt pan or jell-o mold).  The bigger the ice, the slower it will melt.  Freezing a “severed hand” or “eyeballs” in your ice block is also a great way to decorate the punch.  As the ice melts, be sure to tend to anything that shouldn’t be floating in the bowl.

If you’re throwing a party this Halloween, my recommendation is that you go with a punch.  Not only will it get you out from behind the bar, it’ll allow your guests to tend to themselves, dilute their drinks as the night wears on, and most importantly, free you up to scare everyone within inches of their lives.  And, really, that’s what Halloween is all about.

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