The holidays are here and it’s time to entertain. When company comes calling, a beautiful punch bowl can be the center of a party spread. As an alternative to the standard recipes, it’s fun to experiment with herbs, such as rose hips, cinnamon, mint and nettle. This not only gives guests some healthy alternatives, but it is a great way to introduce guests, who may be unfamiliar with herbs, to their charms.
Punches can be served hot or cold, depending on the type of party you’re having. A cold, fruity beverage can add a lot of atmosphere to a cocktail party while a hot drink is wonderful after spending the day outside. It’s fun to add a little fizz in the form of ginger ale or ginger beer to the cold drinks. Natural fruit sorbet makes a tasty and attractive garnish.
Holiday Punch Recipes:
Add Pizzazz with Herbs
When adding an herbal tea to a punch, aim to complement the overall character of the plant. For example, a delicate herb like chamomile blends well with light flavors like apple, and rose hips work well with the tartness of cranberry. You also can compose a party beverage by keeping in mind the medicinal uses of a plant. Here is a short list of some herbs, their medicinal uses and possible flavor combinations:
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Delicate and mild, this apple-scented herb blends well with almost any kind of juice. Chamomile is relaxing, great for stomach upsets, and used as an antispasmodic.
Rose hips (Rosa spp.). Slightly tart, this herb blends well with citrus juices, cranberry juice and apple cider. It is a good herb to reach for during cold and flu season, because it is high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system.
Peppermint (Mentha xpiperita). Stimulating and refreshing, peppermint adds a hint of cool to any punch recipe. Fresh mint leaves, if available, are a nice choice — the fresh herb retains its volatile oils better than dried. This is wonderful for boosting mood, clearing chest congestion and relieving headaches.
Nettle (Urtica dioica). Rich and earthy, this herb blends comfortably with juices that have a more complex flavor, such as grape juice or a fruit punch blend. Nettle is a great health-booster — it is rich in minerals, such as iron, calcium and magnesium.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Fragrant with hints of lemon and pepper, ginger will warm you on the coldest of nights. It tastes great mixed with green tea and apple juice. Ginger is a good herb to use in the winter — it aids the immune system and helps boost tolerance to the cold temperatures.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.) The smell of cinnamon makes us recall cold days, apple pie and festive gatherings. A few cinnamon sticks are a nice addition to hot drinks. Warming and antimicrobial, cinnamon is great in colder temperatures. Cinnamon also is a great comfort when you’re sick with the flu.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Reminiscent of apple pie, cloves are a natural complement to cinnamon. It is an antiviral and antiseptic, as well as a carminative, so it expels excess gas in the digestive system. It also can be used for colds or an upset stomach.
Katherine Huether is a freelance writer and herbalist. She has a B.A. in English from the University of New Hampshire and a Diploma of Herbal Studies from the Australasian College of Health Sciences. She is also the corresponding editor of All Info About Germany, a website dedicated to German culture and travel (http://Germany.AllInfoAbout.com).