The Perfect Labor Day Party Cocktails

The countdown has begun: There are, unbelievably, just three days of summer left! Sure, fall may not officially start for three more weeks, but for all intents and purposes, the season is over after this weekend.

The only thing to do is party for the next 72 hours. And nothing satisfies a thirsty group better than a big bowl of punch.

Nowhere are punches more revered than in the South—from the tropical Planter’s Punch that’s practically South Carolina’s state beverage to the delicious rum concoction created by Martha Washington at Mount Vernon in Virginia, flowing bowls have deep roots in Dixie.

So we turned to a couple of the South’s finest mixologists for recipes that are ideal for a Labor Day event—but they’re so good, you’ll want to enjoy them year-round.

At Veranda on Highland in Birmingham, Ala., bar manager Steva Casey whips up a different bowl of punch every day for happy hour, and it’s typically long gone by 7 PM. Her refreshing Last Gentleman combines bourbon, watermelon juice and a simple thyme-infused syrup for a sophisticated  elixir that serves 10.

When it comes to unique punchbowls, New OrleansBellocq is the champ. The centerpiece of its bar is a gorgeous sterling-silver number found at a local antique shop featuring a huge octopus holding up the bowl. Co-owner Kirk Estopinal fills it with an array of old-timey creations, including English Punsch (pictured above), a mix of gin, brandy, port and Earl Grey tea.

Now get to mixing. The clock is ticking, after all!

Last Gentleman

Contributed by Steva Casey
INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz Bulleit Bourbon
  • 4 oz Dubonnet
  • 2 oz Thyme-Infused Simple Syrup*
  • 10 oz Fresh watermelon juice
  • 16 oz Ice water
  • Glass: Punch

PREPARATION:
Stir together all the ingredients in a large punchbowl or other container. Refrigerate until cold. Just before serving, add a few large ice blocks. Serve in punch cups. (This recipe serves 10.)

*Thyme-Infused Simple Syrup
INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 8 oz Water
  • 2 tbsp Fresh thyme leaves

PREPARATION:
Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Strain, and store in the refrigerator.

English Punsch

Contributed by Kirk Estopinal
INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (750-mL) bottle London dry-style gin
  • 1 (750-mL) bottle Brandy
  • 1 (750-mL) bottle Port
  • 6 Lemons, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 6 Oranges, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 750 mL (about 25 oz) Water
  • 8 Earl Grey teabags (or 8 tsp loose Earl Grey tea)
  • 2 sprigs Lemon balm (optional)
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 1.5 L (about 50 oz) Club soda
  • Garnish: Lemon wedge
  • Glass: Punch

PREPARATION:
Add the gin, brandy and port to a punchbowl or other large container. Add the lemon and orange slices, and let stand for 6 hours. Remove the lemon and orange slices and hold over the bowl to let any retained liquid drip off. While the citrus infuses, heat the water to just under boiling, about 190° F. Add the tea and lemon balm, if using, and steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea and lemon balm, and stir in the sugar. Add the tea mixture to the gin mixture and refrigerate until cold. Just before serving, add the club soda. Serve in punch cups filled with ice and garnish with lemon wedges. (This recipe serves 20 to 25.)

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Comments

  1. Last gentleman sounds good in theory, but I think it needs a tablespoon of acid phosphate or a couple ounces of lemon juice. To me watermelon tastes sweet already, so to add Dubonnet and simple with nothing to counterbalance doesn’t sound right. Never know until you try I guess? I will make this at work tonight and we’ll see how it goes…

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