Thowing a Holiday Party?

With all the entertaining that goes on at this time of year, people tend to get tired of dressing in nice clothes and standing around pine trees making small talk. Holiday parties are nice and all, but, let’s face it, when your weekends are booked solid with so much visiting and holiday cheer, you get burned out in no time. The one bright side is that once you get past the receiving line of smiles and reindeer sweaters, there is often a tasty spread of food and drink available. This is the one time of year when you get to eat cookies with abandon, snack on hors d’oeuvres without remorse, and fill up on unusual beverages with deceptive amounts of booze in them. With all this preparation, it can be difficult for the busy hosts to enjoy themselves. The following holiday punch recipes are appropriately festive, easy to make, and serve a big crowd. If you’re hosting a holiday shindig, preparation is key, and these two concoctions will keep your guests satisfied and full of cheer with a minimum of work on your part.

Hot rum punch is lot of fun to make. You get to use the oven, the stove, and open flames–how often in the course of making a drink does that happen? It has all the tastes you associate with the season and, if spiked properly, boasts plenty of jolliness. This version serves up to 30 people but can be easily adapted to accommodate more or less.

1. Spike whole cloves into 4 small to medium oranges. If possible, use oranges that aren’t waxed or at least not heavily coated with wax.

2. Put the oranges in a 250 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until they get a little soft.

3. When done, put oranges in a large, wide pot on the stove over low-medium flame and add a bottle (70 cl) of dark rum (at least 40 proof).

4. This is the cool part: Once it gets warmed up and the vapors rise off the rum, use a long match or lighter to ignite the rum.

5. Allow to burn for 30 seconds or so, making sure everyone present sees how cool it is and slowly add a gallon of apple cider until the flames go out. If it stays lit, put the lid on for a few seconds to extinguish.

6. Keep the stove on low to keep warm for short periods throughout the night until it is finished.

Sangria is an old party favorite that is both well liked and simple to make. Basically, you take crappy wine, add fruit and ice to curb the wine’s bite. Though traditionally served by the pitcher, sangria can be made in a large bowl to serve to your holiday crowd.

1. Rinse and, if necessary, slice mixed fruit to add to the sangria wine. Oranges are the most basic, but you can get creative. Starfruit looks great, providing a holiday look. Cranberries give it a New England edge. Have fun, but show restraint, as too much fruit results in excess pulpy and indistinct taste. For best results, limit the sangria to no more than three types of fruit. Plan on having just enough fruit for one layer at the top of the punch bowl.

2. Pour the wine into a bowl and add the fruit. The quality of wine can as high or low as you like, but if you want authentic sangria, go for a Spanish rioja. If , however, you’re on a student budget, just purchase gallon jugs of “sangria” wine.

3. Let the fruit mix with the wine for some time for the flavors to merge. When you’re ready to serve, add a block of ice to the bowl. If you can’t find ice in block form, simply rinse out a cardboard milk carton, fill it with water, and freeze overnight. Once frozen, peel back the cardboard and you’ve got an ice block.

4. Some versions of sangria call for soda water, brandy, or other types of alcohol (Texans often add Everclear). Do what you want, as the beauty of Sangria is that it can be strong or weak, but the flavor will almost always be the same. The key to this is a balanced wine to fruit to brandy ratio balanced while maintaining the concoction at cold temperatures.

This is supposed to be a joyous time of year, so it is important to make sure you enjoy your holiday parties even if you’re stuck hosting one. Punches always go well with the traditional cookies and food that populate parties and get people in the mood to ring in holiday cheer.