Plan a Home & Garden Party: Ginger Minted Sparkling Punch

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By Lucinda Hutson

<em>Makes about twelve 8-ounce servings</em>
<p>This festive punch combines a spicy Ginger-Mint Syrup and freshly squeezed citrus juice, topped with inexpensive Spanish sparkling wine or ginger ale. You can add any combination of lemon verbena, lemon balm, and mint for additional flavor and garnish. Feel free to adapt the proportions of ingredients to suit you and your guests’ tastes.</p>
<strong>Ginger-Mint Syrup<br />
<em>Makes 2 cups</em>
<p>• 2 lemons<br />
• 1 lime<br />
• 2 cups sugar<br />
• 1 cup water<br />
• 4 tablespoons grated fresh gingerroot<br />
• 1 cup tightly packed mint leaves<br />
• 1/2-inch piece vanilla bean, if desired</p>
<p>1. Remove the peel of the lemons and lime carefully, avoiding the white pith; reserve the lemons and limes for juice.</p>
<p>2. In a heavy 1-quart saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium-low heat. Add lemon and lime peels, ginger, and mint. Bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring gently, for 4 minutes. Cover and allow to steep until cool. Strain the cooled mixture, pressing down on the peel and herbs with a wooden spoon to extract the flavors. Store the syrup in the refrigerator. (In addition to this punch, the syrup can be used in other drinks, desserts, and over fresh fruit.)</p>
<p>• 1 1/2 liters fruity, semi-dry sparkling white wine, chilled<br />
• 3/4 to 1 cup Ginger-Mint Syrup<br />
• Juice of 4 or more lemons<br />
• Juice of 4 or more limes<br />
• 2 to 3 oranges, sliced<br />
• 2 lemons, sliced<br />
• 1 lime, sliced<br />
• 1 bunch fresh mint, divided<br />
• One 12-ounce bottle ginger ale, preferably Jamaican-style (available at health-food and specialty stores)<br />
• Chilled sparkling wine or additional ginger ale to taste</p>
<p>1. Pour the wine into a large glass jar or pitcher. Stir in the syrup, then add the lemon and lime juice to taste. The flavor should be intense, because it will later be diluted with wine and/or ginger ale. Add the orange slices and a handful of fresh mint; cover and chill overnight.</p>
<p>2. When ready to serve, pour the wine mixture into your punch bowl. Add the lemon and lime slices; remove the mint with a slotted spoon. Add fresh mint sprigs. Add the bottle of ginger ale, stir, and generously top with sparkling wine or more ginger ale. Garnish glasses with citrus slices and herb sprigs.</p>
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<em>Lucinda Hutson writes and gardens from her home in Austin, Texas. She has written The Herb Garden Cookbook (Gulf Publishing Company, 1998), and her articles on food and gardening appear in many publications. You can order her book by writing Lucinda Hutson, PO Box 300607, Austin, TX 78703 or on her website at</em>
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