New Year's Eve cocktail ideas that pack a punch

We don’t know about you, but the silly season for us has come around way too quickly this year. Wasn’t it just Easter like a month ago? Though it’s supposed to be a joyous time celebrated with friends and family, New Year's Eve can be stressful and hectic, especially when you're throwing a party for more than 5. So how do you be the hostess with the mostess AND still churn out some cocktails that will wow your guests? Well … you drink punch, of course! Easy to prepare in batches and equally as delicious, punch is a refreshing drink of choice when your brain can’t handle any more wine and your stomach is sick of the eggnog you've imbibed all through Christmas.

Punch drink origin The word punch is largely believed to have originated from the Sanskrit term "panch" which means five. And therein lies the clue for the drink's makeup - five ingredients consisting traditionally of alcohol, water, sugar, spice and citrus. Like most cocktails, debates abound as to the true origin but popular theories centre around it being nvented as a very strong alternative to beer in the 17th century by British sailors. These sailors were talented drinkers, chugging back a share of 10 pints (roughly 4.7L) of beer per sailor per day. Now that’s serious skill. However, when the ships reached the warmers waters of the Indian Ocean, the beer held in cargo bays became sour and flat – two things beer should never be. When the boats reached the shore, sailors began creating new drinks out of ingredients native to their destinations, such as arrack (a popular South Asian palm based spirit), rum, spices and citrus. And that’s how punch was born. These sailors brought punch back to Britain and it quickly became the party tipple of choice. Before long, punch spread as far as the American colonies. During the Victorian Age, punch was all the rage but lost its mojo by the 19th century before experiencing a resurgence in the modern era as an easy way to make drinks for large crowds.

So now you know some of the history behind punch (awesome conversation starter when you’re stuck next to boring Joe at your New Year party), here are two delicious – and strong – recipes to make for your guests at this year’s New Year's Eve party.


Fish House cocktail punchPerhaps the most famous of all traditional punches, the Philly Fish House Punch draws on a base of rum and cognac. It is largely believed to have originated in a fishing and social club (of course) called the Schuylkill Fishing Corps (try pronouncing THAT after a few cocktails) but whatever its origins, it's a actually a very balanced drink.

Whilst there's since been many interpretations (some believing the original recipe to have omitted the peach brandy and others using soda water in lieu of mineral water), given this one a whirl:
Image: iStock/miwphotography


  • 1/4 cup sugar syrup (solution of 2 parts sugar dissolved in 1 cup water)
  • 2 cups black tea (or water)
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups dark rum (try Ord River Rum premium)
  • 1 cup cognac
  • 3/4 cup peach brandy

Garnish: lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg


  • In a large bowl, add all ingredients and stir to mix.
  • Add a block of ice to chill, and continue to add smaller pieces of ice for desired dilution.
  • Garnish with lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg.
  • Ladle into individual glasses.

For a modern twist (and those who are white spirit lovers) we love this particular version from English gin house Sipsmith. Drinking like a batched up version of an iced lemon tea, this would be perfect for a balmy summer's night!

Sipsmith Gin Punch cocktail


1 cup Sipsmith London Dry Gin
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup honey syrup (combine honey with an equal measure of water and let it rest, stirring occasionally until it is dissolved)
1 cup pomegranate juice (you can substitute cranberry, pineapple, or a mix of juices)
1 cup strongly brewed chai



    • In a large bowl, add all ingredients and stir to mix.
    • Add a block of ice to chill, and continue to add smaller pieces of ice for desired dilution.
    • Garnish with lemon, orange and tangerine wheels.
    • Ladle into individual glasses.



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