A few years ago, before my sister had children and a husband and her life together, she lived in a tiny house on the edge of a swamp. We called this property “Pondside.” Here, she had more feral cats than they have pass-arounds at Lambert’s, and we would throw fantastic holiday parties attended by the crème de la crème of assistant managers at the Riviera Center.
When the weather was warm, we’d make a refreshing punch out of vodka, 2-liters of Twist Up and cans of frozen lemonade concentrate. When it cooled off and we could leave the kitchen window open, I’d crank our grandmother’s Crock-Pot up to “low” and fill it with my trademarked party punch concoction: apple cider, dry red wine, whiskey, orange peels and cinnamon sticks. It’s like a mulled cider and a mulled wine in one, and it’s always a hit during the winter.
But when it comes to making a punch for a Halloween party in the year 2019 — when you’ve retired lemonade for the season and aren’t yet ready to sip on hot juice — neither of my vintage recipes seem to fit. So I consulted my friend Aaron Goldfarb, who recently wrote a book on this exact subject. His tome “Gather Around Cocktails: Drinks to celebrate usual and unusual holidays” (available on amazon.com) shares recipes for delicious yet amusingly low-brow party drinks for every time of year. For Mardi Gras, he makes a King Cake Old Fashioned and freezes plastic babies in giant ice cubes. For Easter, he makes bourbon shots inside Cadbury Crème Eggs.
And he’s got plenty of ideas for Halloween, too.
“Just because people dressed up in costumes doesn’t mean you can get away with simply hanging up a few cardboard skeletons you bought from the bargain bin at Walgreens and putting out a bowl of assorted ‘fun-size’ Hershey bars next to a cooler of pumpkin beers,” he says.
Instead, he suggests making a memorable punch that includes whiskey, maple syrup and canned pumpkin purée. For added drama, serve it in a hollowed-out pumpkin chilled with spooky, smoky dry ice. You could even buy a spigot at the hardware store, screw it in near the bottom of the pumpkin and let guests serve themselves out of the tap. And to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday that honors the deceased, and also falls on Oct. 31, he makes skull-shaped gelatin shots from mezcal, Cherry Coke and a chocolate-y liqueur.
Pondside party-goers would definitely approve.
4 ounces maple syrup
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
3 (12-ounce) bottles pumpkin ale
2¼ cups hard cider
1½ cups rye whiskey
1½ cups apple brandy
Ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, for garnish
Hollowed-out pumpkin, for serving (optional)
In a large punch bowl, combine the syrup and pumpkin purée. Make sure they are well integrated before adding the beer, cider, whiskey and brandy. Add ice to the punch bowl and stir to chill and dilute the mixture. (If it’s too chunky, just add more beer or cider and keep stirring.)
Serve in the punch bowl with a ladle or in a hollowed-out pumpkin tapped with a spigot. Keep the ground cinnamon and sticks nearby so guests can garnish their drinks.
6 ounces mezcal
7 ounces Cherry Coke syrup (recipe below)
2 ounces Amaro Meletti
4 ounces fresh lime juice
1 packet unflavored Knox Gelatin
Make Cherry Coke syrup: Boil Cherry Coke in a pot over medium-high heat until it’s reduced by half.
In a bowl, combine the mezcal, syrup, Amaro and lime juice. In a separate bowl, combine the gelatin with 1½ ounces of warm water and whisk until combined. Add the liquor mixture into the gelatin and stir to combine. Pour into individual skull-shaped molds (available on amazon.com) and transfer them to the refrigerator until solid, about 4 hours.
To serve, pop the skulls out of their molds and transfer to a plate. If the shots are sticking to the mold, freeze them for an hour and try again.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist and Boozie’s most unreliable Baldwin County spy. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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