Punch bowls making a comeback

April 28, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Whether served from an antique or a silver tureen, the appeal of a group-focused cocktail cannot be denied.

Going out with a group has its pluses, especially at mixologist-driven places like The Exchange, a relatively easy-to-miss bar and cocktail lounge in Wicker Park. In addition to handmade libations, they are part of a growing group of places offering punch bowls.

"You get a big group of people in here it's easy just to like, right out of the gate whip them up a punch bowl. They all have one cocktail while they peruse the menu and look for everything else," said Kerri Spring, one of the bartenders at The Exchange.

There are currently two punch bowls at The Exchange, both are 45 dollars and will serve from four to six people. One of them is called "Swimming in it." Along with fresh lemon juice and honey syrup, a bit of grapefruit juice adds even more citrus. Some ginger liqueur and a dash of bitters keep the citrus in check; the base spirit is Death's Door gin from Door County, Wisconsin. The carefully mixed cocktail is poured tableside into a bowl with freshly-cut fruit and a giant ice block.

"We infused the gin with chamomile tea. So it definitely has a smoother feel to it. We put honey syrup in it so it's really silky," said Spring.

The "Claret Punch" appears more ruby-colored, the result of raspberry liqueur and red wine.. but there's also Bols Genever - the original gin - which adds a unique complexity. It's kind of like a fancy sangria. A large block of ice keeps it cool without diluting the punch too much.

Over at the Trump Hotel in River North, the second floor Rebar also offers a lively punch bowl service. Yes, it's more expensive - about $200 dollars - but you could serve a dozen people from it. Freshly-cut fruit goes in first, followed by white wine and St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur that is simply divine. The real kick comes from a bottle of Trump's brand name vodka.

"What's great about the punch bowl is you can come in and just have one cocktail that we serve by the punch bowl at the bar. Or you can come with a group of friends for a celebration and order your own punch bowl service," said Michael Koury, the Manager of ReBar. "It's nice for groups, for small gatherings."

The Exchange
1270 N. Milwaukee Ave.

401 N. Wabash Ave.

also mentioned:

The Southern
1840 W. North Ave.

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