How to Turn a Cocktail Into a Party Punch

Transform Your Favorite Drink Recipes Into an Easy to Serve Punch

Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Punch
The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

A punch is a great way to serve party guests with little effort. While there are many great punch recipes, what if you want to transform a favorite cocktail into a spectacular bowl of punch? While it won't work for every drink, several cocktails can be converted to a party punch by multiplying the recipe for the number of servings required.

Choose the Right Cocktail

The first thing to consider is which cocktails will work best as a punch. Some drinks are better suited for individual servings: 

  • Heavily-spirited cocktails like the martini and Manhattan will not work the majority of the time. Not only are they too intoxicating for party service, but they will also lose their spark and become flat if allowed to sit for long. The exception is if you're mixing up a pitcher of four or five drinks to serve immediately, such as at a dinner party.
  • Drinks that require specialized techniques like muddling don't make a very good punch. Some can be adapted to replicate the taste. For instance, a mint syrup can be used to mix up a mojito. Adding extra soda lowers the proof while increasing the volume.

Tip

Serving a high-proof punch is never a good idea. Guests can be caught off guard and can become drunk too quickly. A punch that's 10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) or less is ideal. Adding more nonalcoholic mixers (e.g., soda, juice, etc.) will knock down the strength.

Cocktails that make good punches include fruit juices, wines, and sodas. In other words, recipes with more nonalcoholic ingredients than liquor.

Recipes like the planter's punch that already have "punch" in the name are often good candidates for a party. Traditionally, the definition of "punch" was any drink with five or more ingredients, even when the recipe produces a single serving. These tend to be lower proof and easy to increase.

Other examples of punch-worthy cocktails include:

Estimate the Servings

The next part of the equation is to determine the number of servings you need. Are you entertaining a group of 25 to 50 people or hosting a small brunch of just five or six? Will there be other beverages offered? How long does the party last?

It is usually safe to assume that each person will drink one 4-ounce serving per hour. By using this average, you take into account those who will not drink any punch, those who will have just one drink, and those who will drink more. It typically balances out. You'll often find that you have either just enough punch or a little left over.

Multiply the Recipe

With your recipe and estimated servings, multiply each ingredient by the number of servings.

For example, if you want to make a hurricane punch for 20 people, you will need about 60 servings. With tall drinks (6 ounces or more) like this, the math is more straightforward when you cut the recipe in half to account for the smaller punch servings.

In this instance, the conversion is:

Ingredient Single Serving 1/2 Serving Punch Serving
Light Rum 2 oz. 1 oz. 60 oz.
Dark Rum 2 oz. 1 oz. 60 oz.
Passion Fruit Juice 2 oz. 1 oz. 60 oz.
Orange Juice 1 oz. 1/2 oz. 30 oz.
Lime Juice 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 15 oz.
Simple Syrup 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 15 oz.
Grenadine 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 15 oz.

This formula yields a 255-ounce punch. Divide that into 4-ounce servings, and you have 63 drinks. To lower the proof of this liquor-heavy drink, cut one or both rums in half and make up the difference with sparkling water or soda.

Using the sex on the beach cocktail as another example, let's see how many people you can serve with one bottle of vodka. The recipe uses 1 1/2 ounces (1 standard shot) of vodka, and a 750ml bottle has about 16 shots. From there, the math is easy because you simply need to multiply every ingredient by 16.

The sex on the beach punch is:

Ingredient Single Serving Punch Serving
Vodka 1 1/2 oz. 25 oz.
Peach Schnapps 3/4 oz. 12 oz.
Crème de Cassis 1/2 oz. 8 oz.
Orange Juice 2 oz. 32 oz.
Pineapple Juice 2 oz. 32 oz.

In total, the punch is about 109 ounces or enough for 27 4-ounce servings. Factor in the ice, and you'll have 30 drinks or enough for 10 to 15 guests.

Factor in Dilution

The last thing to take into account is the dilution from melting ice. It adds liquid to the mix, so you can usually get away with a little less punch than the increased recipe indicates. Additionally, the serving size stretches a little further if you offer ice that guests can add to their glasses.

Tips

  • For large parties, make enough punch in advance for the entire event. Fill your punch bowl and refrigerate the remainder in pitchers for a quick refill.
  • Don't add carbonated ingredients until the last minute. Pour soda, sparkling wine, and the like to the punch bowl directly on top of the base punch to ensure your guests enjoy the freshest bubbles.
  • Always trust your judgment. Converting cocktails to large batches is not a science, and it is best to do taste tests throughout the punch-making process. Even small adjustments to flavor enhancers such as citrus juices, bitters, and syrups can make a significant impact.