The holidays will soon be behind us. All that’s left before the bleak, overcast, blandness that is January, February, and early March is New Year’s Eve — the crown jewel in a season of endless many parties, gut-busting foods, and way too many sugary cocktails. It’s the perfect night to make bold resolutions, toast often, and wake up craving a breakfast burrito and two aspirin.
No New Year’s Eve soiree is complete without a spiked punch. Fruity, boozy, and often made of indistinct origins — it’s a reveler’s dream. Silvia Rho, beverage manager at Copper Lounge in Los Angeles pours Mexico’s second favorite spirit in her NYE punchbowl.
“I love to play around with mezcal when creating a batched punch cocktail,” she says. “It’s such a great spirit that can be transformed into lots of different flavors. It’s also definitely an acquired taste — so if I can make something that people who don’t normally drink mezcal like then it feels like a win for me.”
Of course, the spirit you select will have a huge impact on the ingredients in your punch and the overall flavor. That’s why we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to spirits to add to a New Year’s Eve punch.
Hennessy VS Cognac
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Patrick Turner, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore
For the holidays, I keep it classic and give my punch life with a bottle of Hennessey V.S. I love using Hennessy because it does a lot of the work for me. I can simply add sugar, bubbles, apple juice, and lemon, and have a punch that is near perfect.
Vale Fox Tod & Vixen Gin
Matt Piacentini, owner of the Up and Up in New York City
Tod & Vixen’s from The Vale Fox Distillery is my new favorite gin. When using it in something like a holiday punch, the citrus and the tea really come out and play with the spices and, if you are using it, the champagne. Sometimes holiday punches can be on the heavier side, and Tod & Vixen’s helps that by being able to offer some richer flavors in a lighter, more ethereal way.
Neversink Apple Brandy
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
My favorite spirit to add to a holiday punch is Neversink Apple Brandy. It has such a delicious and clean taste and comes through beautifully in holiday punches.
Western Grace Brandy
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Kala Ellis, bar manager at O-Ku Bar in Nashville
I love to bring Western Grace, a Spanish brandy, out during the holidays. It makes great hot punches and warm cocktails, but it plays really well with citrus oleo syrups in refreshing, light cocktails too. Its hazelnut and rich cacao notes are nostalgic and delicious this time of year.
Hennessy VSOP Cognac
Jonni Montgomery, bartender at Tulio in Seattle
All other holiday punches will forever loom in the shadow of spiked eggnog. Hennessy is a great choice to spike your eggnog, cognac has the sweetness that extenuates the eggnog while Henny is also well respected in the streets.
Diplomatico Mantuano Rum
Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia
My favorite spirit to add to any holiday punch is Diplomatico Mantuano Aged Rum. If we are going to have a party, why not liven it up? Diplomatico is a great spirit because it has such a bold flavor, it plays well with a myriad of fruit juices and spices and is versatile to go into a sangria or into a rum punch.
Christian Brothers Sacred Bond Brandy
Drew Hairston, beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
Brandy or cognac is an extremely versatile spirit to add to punches this season. It depends on whether you want to double down on wintry spices and herbs or opt to try some fresh berries and fruit forward flavors. Christian Brothers Sacred Bond Brandy is a solid bottled-in-bond brandy with a great history in Napa Valley. I recommend reading up on their relationship with Hess Winery and the Catholic Church (think communion wines).
Plantation OFTD Rum
Jason Werth, head bartender at Motif in Seattle
I like Caribbean punches, so a nice over-proof rum like Plantation’s OFTD would be my pick. Throw it in some citrus fruit juice and grate some nutmeg on it and you’ve got a delicious party drink that’s a thousand calories healthier than spiked eggnog.
Ming River Baijiu
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Jef Tate, Janitor’s Closet in Chicago
Ming River Baijiu – It’s a new spirit here stateside and packs a ton of flavor that works really well in punches.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum
Alejandro Dieguez, head bartender at J. Bespoke in New York City
My favorite spirit for a holiday punch is Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. This amber rum adds a great color and depth to any rum punch, or you can just enjoy it on its own.
Belle Isle Blood Orange Moonshine
Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia
For a holiday punch I love to sneak in some Belle Isle Blood Orange Moonshine. Most punches for the holidays are going to involve some Champagne. The blood orange flavor is a no-brainer with some bubbles as well as adding some honey vanilla tea.
Korbel VS Brandy
Andrea Correale , owner of Elegant Affairs Caterers in Glen Cove, New York
There is nothing I love better than a spiked eggnog over the holidays. Because eggnog is sweet by itself, here I like to use brandy. I like Korbel VS. It makes a really great almost floral-like eggnog beverage that has a fun and catchy flavor.
Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum
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Alexander Carlin, beverage director for Infuse Hospitality in Chicago
I love adding rum to holiday punches. Plantation Pineapple Rum is a personal favorite because it is over-proofed (helpful when balancing fruits and other flavors for punches), has a wonderful fruit flavor, and offers a rich spiced profile that pairs well with holiday flavors like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. I love making a Plantation Pineapple Punch with cranberry, ginger liqueur, cinnamon water, and finished with dry sparkling wine. It’s always been a crowd favorite.
Tequila Ocho Plata
Wade McElroy, director of food and beverage development in Fieldhouse Jones in Nashville
For a Holiday punch, you should use something that is pretty universally loved—my go-to is blanco tequila. I’ve always really loved mixing with Tequila Ocho Plata.
Santera Reposado Tequila
Nate Fishman, bartender at Liquor Lab in New York City
My favorite spirit to add to a punch for a holiday party would have to be Santera Reposado Tequila. With all the whiskey and brandy cocktails going around during the holidays I like to brighten up the flavor with some Reposado.
Tequila is an extremely popular spirit at the moment and will be sure to please the crowd. I especially like tequilas that are made in the traditional brick oven method. Versus other tequilas that are made using quicker modern methods they miss out on the beauty of the agave roasting process. Slow roasting in a brick oven gives the tequila a smoother finish and brighter citrus notes. This method is why Santera Tequila is my go-to for sipping and sharing with friends. The allspice and cinnamon notes of Santera Reposado adds a flavor to the punch that brings everyone together.