The holidays are packed full of food and frolic, but you can't forget to stop and have a sip of the libations decorating the air. Whether alcohol is included or left out, fresh herbs dominate the aromas and can do a little more than add to the ambiance.

Years ago my cousin Allison and I moved into an apartment together in downtown Maysville. There's still no one I enjoy throwing a party with more than my cousin. Our vivid imaginations relished over every detail. We loved hosting "theme" parties with a few traditional twists. We always joked that you knew it was really a party when the punch bowl was out. We would put a table in the middle of the living room, throw on a decadent table cloth, and put that punch bowl right in the middle of the room. It always helped keep folks from gathering in the kitchen, because now they had a place to go and gather. Something about the punch bowl is approachable and comforting to everyone. It always helps break the ice when not all the guests know each other or some guests don't know a soul.

A holiday staple at all of my family gatherings, festive punch is something we all crave almost as much as the food. Almost.

Today I have included a few of my favorite festive libations. The alcohol may be modified or even left out. Sometimes I even make two batches so that everyone can enjoy. If you don't have an ingredient, don't sweat it. Replace fruit with other fruit, or juice with other juice or sparkling cider. Feel free to make a few additions of your own. Just remember to have fun. There's enough craziness over the weeks ahead, and punch shouldn't be one of them.

Good luck and enjoy!

Hot Honey Lemonade

(serves 4)

1/2 cup simple syrup

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 teaspoons honey

3 cups boiling water

12 whole cloves

4 lemon wedges

12 honey-drop candies

Pour 2 tablespoons simple syrup in each of four heatproof glasses or mugs. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon honey, and 3/4 cup boiling water to each; stir until honey dissolves.
Stick 3 cloves into each lemon wedge; drop a wedge and 3 candies into each drink. Serve immediately.


Champagne Punch

1 1/2 cups Genever, chilled

1/2 cup orange curaçao, chilled

1/2 cup Rich Simple Syrup (recipe link in intro)

10 dashes aromatic bitters, such as angostura

1 cup sparkling water

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup sparkling wine or Champagne

Freshly grated nutmeg

Pineapple slices and star anise, for garnishing

Mix and serve immediately.

Sparkling Cranberry Punch

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, for swizzle sticks
 1 bunch mint, for swizzle sticks
 2 cups freshly squeezed pomegranate juice (about five pomegranates)
 3 cups freshly squeezed tangerine juice (about seven tangerines)5 cups cranberry-juice cocktail
 2 bottles (750 ml each) sparkling wine or Champagne


Mix and serve.

Blueberry/Rosemary Punch

6 cups cranberry juice cocktail (unsweetened), chilled

2 cups water

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 sprigs rosemary

1 orange, sliced

1 cup (8 ounces) Peach Schnapps or Bourbon

4 cups tonic water

fresh cranberries and rosemary for serving

Mix and serve.

Frozen Bourbon Milk Punch

Bourbon

1 cups half and half

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp sugar

nutmeg, garnish

1 gallon vanilla ice cream

Pour into punch bowl and serve immediately.

The recipes and photo use in today's article are from the kitchen of Chef Babz.

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