What really makes the difference is what most people think about the least: the ice. A proper punch should have a massive hunk of ice bobbing in it—the kind you’ve likely seen when ordering one at a nice cocktail bar. And creating that iceberg is shockingly painless at home. Meredith Hayman, the bar manager at Michael’s in Santa Monica, California, loves to fill up a bundt cake tin with water and freeze it to create a circular ‘berg with a stylish design to boot. But you can “use any kind of pan or casserole dish” or even a metal bowl, she says.
There’s something about a giant piece of ice that just gets people excited. (Those speakeasy-style bars are onto something, after all.) But there’s also science behind it. The larger the ice, the less surface area, which means it will melt more slowly and, therefore, dilute an appropriately party-sized punch over a longer period of time. It makes watery Jungle Juice a thing of hazy memories.
You can upgrade your ice even more by layering it with fruit or herbs (be careful with the latter, however, since they can wilt and turn color easily). The trick is to freeze half your pan or bowl with water, then add your accoutrements, and fill the rest of the way for freezing. Overnight, you’ll have a punch with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries suspended in ice, and friends will be comparing you to Marie Antoinette—in a good way.
Here are two recipes for creating festive, decorative punches that also taste damn delicious, along with instructions for creating a show-stopping iceberg. The first punch is as simple as possible and highly customizable. The second, from Hayman, is a slightly more sophisticated concoction laced with vanilla and lavender that requires only a bit more time. Both will earn you instant karma among your party attendees.