Growing up in the Philippines, bartender Kevin Saquilayan of Manhattan in Regent Singapore remembers that a punch bowl was a quintessential part of his family’s convivial Christmas feasts.
The 28-year-old says: “Christmas is always a family celebration and a party of 30 people always gather around a table filled with dishes such as ham and lechon (roast pig), but a punch bowl filled with gin, orange juice and soda water would always be the centre of attention.” He adds that everyone could help themselves to the communal bowl to ease into the festive mood and get conversation flowing.
The recipe also adheres to the tradition of having five components for a punch recipe — spirit, sugar, lemon, water and tea or spices. Besides masala chai tea, his spirits of choice include a spiced pear liqueur and bourbon that injects notes of oak, vanilla and maple into the punch. Lastly, the punch bowl is topped with champagne for a fizzy finish. Afterall, what is a celebration without bubbly?
Serves 10 to 20 people
1 Tbs cardamom pods
1 Tbs star anise
250ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
250g white sugar
250ml freshly brewed masala chai tea
150ml apple pie syrup (see below)
150ml St George’s Spice Pear liqueur
450ml Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Ice (as required)
1 bottle of champagne (750ml)
Dried lemon slices and green apple slices to garnish
For apple pie syrup (makes 1 litre)
10 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cubed
4 star anise
4 sticks cinnamon
2 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped and pods reserved
1. Toast the cardamom pods and star anise in a dry pan (without oil) for 2 to 3 minutes until aromatic. Alternatively, flame spices by igniting a ladleful of rum and adding them into a punch bowl to bring out the aroma and flavours of the spices.
2. Pour lemon juice and sugar. Stir the mixture with an egg whisk till most of the sugar dissolve into the mixture
3. Add in masala chai tea, spiced pear liqueur, apple pie syrup and bourbon and mix well.
4. Add cubes or blocks of ice. Stir the punch with a spatula for two to three minutes till it is well chilled.
5. Just before serving, top the punch with a bottle champagne.
6. Garnish with dried lemon slices and green apple slices. Serve.
For the apple pie syrup
1. In a large pan over low heat, saute the cubed apple cubes for three to five minutes
2. Add star anise, cinnamon, vanilla bean seeds and pod. When the mixture is aromatic, add sugar and stir well.
3. Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes till the sugar starts to caramelise.
4. Add 500ml of water and continue cooking the apples till they are soft and the mixture has thickened (about 40 minutes).
5. Strain the mixture. Discard the apples, spices and vanilla beans, and reserve the liquid. Cool the mixture slightly before use.
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