Punch is back.

The crowd-friendly concoctions are appearing on celebration beverage menus and are more hip than ever. But today’s punches aren’t the old-style sherbet punches or the stereotypical renegade in the movies spiking punch bowls with Everclear.

My inspiration came from not only the many bartenders around the world holding “punch” competitions much like the “cocktail” rivalries but from books like David Wondrich’s, Punch and Dan Searing’s The Punch Bowl.

In the books, we walk through the history and the reasoning behind the re-birth of this drink. The challenge is modernizing recipes from the 18th and 19th century. These punches were often made to serve army regiments and other large groups of hundreds of people or more. Many of these early recipes include directions with phrases such as, “place in trough to serve” and “mix with a wooden paddle.”

Punches are a tasty hassle-free option for entertaining a large group. And if you stick with low alcohol wines as your main ingredients, punches offer a sipping treat for a long evening of celebration versus heavy, high-alcohol cocktails.

To make serving easier have your punch mixed, chilled and ready to serve several hours in advance.

Remember, when making a punch the wine will be mixed with other ingredients so you will be modifying the wine’s distinctive flavors. With that in mind, I suggest using good quality but value wines. Save the expensive bottles for when they can shine on their own. Your goal is a well-made wine with good acidity and structure.

I generally use Spanish cava, California sparkling wines or French cremant. These wines not only have the key to the structure of the punch but are also excellent value prices for large groups.

This is a recipe I have used several times and always receives rave reviews from my guests.

Pomegranate Sparkling

3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup pomegranate juice

3/4 cup chilled late harvest white wine

2 (750-mL) bottles chilled sparkling wine

2 oranges thinly sliced crosswise

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup diced fresh pineapple

In a punch bowl, dissolve the sugar in the pomegranate juice stirring vigorously. Add the wines, and then fruit. Chill well before serving. Serve over ice, if desired.

THE VALUE

  • NV Toso Brut Sparkling, Argentina (about $10 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • NV Gloria Ferrer Brut Sparkling, California (about $19 retail)