As I started planning my holiday party menus, I wondered: Can you make a festive punch using beer as the main ingredient? It’s been done with whiskey, rum, and spiked cider—why not? I took an afternoon to play around in the kitchen with beer varieties and seasonal juices, all in the name of mixing up a merry bubbly brew, and here are the results of my experiments. Bottoms up!
Holiday punches are often made with spirits of some sort—rum, whiskey, or simply spiked cider. Add any mixture of juices, fruit slices, and ice, and you’ve got a recipe for punch. I had wondered how a lower-alcohol punch would come out if it was made without any hard liquor at all, and with just adding a bit of beer into the formula.
To test it out, I took the season’s most popular juices—grapefruit, black cherry, and pomegranate-cranberry—along with ice and ginger ale, and grabbed a variety of different beers to try out. For diversity’s sake, the beers used included a dark lager, a rich porter, and a light pilsner.
I paired different juices up with each of the beers based on their flavor profiles, not unlike when cooking with beer. Take a gander at how each combination paired up, and how to mix these ingredients together for your punch. (Adults 21 of age and older, please!)
Porter and black cherry: Both are rich, ripe, and fruit-forward. Start out with an ice-filled glass, then fill it about one-third of black cherry juice. Finish filling the glass with porter. Top off with a splash of ginger ale if you like, but I found the sweetness of the ginger ale to take away from the richness of the porter flavor.
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Dark lager and pomegranate-cranberry: Both here are a mix of sweet and bitter flavors, not too heavy, and not too light. For mixing this punch, fill an ice-filled glass one-third of juice, then almost fill the rest with lager. Top off with a hearty splash of ginger ale.
Pilsner and grapefruit juice: Both are crisp, light, and on the bitter side. This combination would also work well with a pale ale or IPA, as the fruity bitterness of the beer matches that of the grapefruit juice almost perfectly. For this drink, fill an ice-filled glass halfway with each drink, then top off with a splash of ginger ale (here the ginger ale is almost mandatory as a zingy sweetness to the drink). This will come out like a new-spun holiday mimosa. Light and bubbly, but truly not very sweet.
For each of the drinks, a simple garnish of sliced citrus fruits make an elegant finish. And if you’re serving up an entire bowl of punch rather than individual glasses, follow the same proportions of each drink but mix up gently in a large punch bowl. (I’d wager that a few scoops of winter fruit sorbet in the punch would be an excellent idea, as well.)
Let us know if you’ve ever made a punch with beer, and what your favorite juice/soda combinations are.
Images by Kimberley Stakal