Bill Bewsher from 399 Bar.

They are daggy but deliciously retro jugs of good times. A fruity concoction best enjoyed communally, punch is a lighter and often lower-alcohol drink that had its heyday in the 1970s.

But thanks to a thirst for all things vintage and a move away from beer and other carb-heavy tipples, punch is once again top of the pops.

All the hipper haunts around town - Bob's Bar at the Print Hall, the Aviary and 399 Bar - wily mixologists are serving up pitchers of punchy loveliness to adoring crowds.

Bar manager at 399 Bill Bewsher says they've had punch on the menu for the past couple of years and it's become a mainstay.

"Probably our most popular punch is a cider punch with a lot of fresh fruit and mint and orange, cider and sweet vermouth. That is a really nice moderately boozy drink for people to share with each other."

He says a zingy, fresh punch is the perfect summer drink.

"When it's 35C outside it's awfully nice to be sipping on something cool and refreshing."

It also cuts down on that beery bloat, and is ultimately better for the waistline.

"You start with a strong base and add a lot of dilution and that can be soda or ginger ale or juices, so it's a lot less filling than beer. And it's good for you," he says with a chuckle.

Punch, he explains, hails back to the days of yore when it was offered as a welcome drink to travellers who, after a long road trip, were desperate to slake a raging thirst.

"It is historically a precursor to cocktails," Mr Bewsher says. "At the original old hotels like the Waldorf in New York or the Savoy in London, weary travellers coming off their stagecoach would come in and be greeted by a big man with a big bowl of punch."

Back then, he says, prohibition meant bootleg booze was a little rough around the edges and in order to make it palatable, fruit, juices and other mixers were added.

"The original basis for punch and cocktails is that the booze wasn't necessarily as pleasant as it is now. You had to mask the flavours and with punch you can add all sorts of different types of flavours and it comes out tasting nice - pretty much what I do at Christmas time with my grandparents' liquor cabinet punch."

Indeed, the word "punch" is derived from an old Hindi word "panche" which loosely translates as five. "As it happens punch is designed around having five different elements in different proportions," Mr Bewsher says.

Punch is a brilliant project for the budding bartender who likes to experiment, and a real crowd- pleaser for entertaining at home.

"If you're making a punch at home you can make it as strong - or not - as you like," he says. "And the beauty of the punch is that if you make a big one, you only have to make it once."

While an average 70s punch might have contained Golden Circle fruit salad, concentrated juice and lemonade with a glug of fruity lexia, the modern incarnations are a little groovier - and certainly grander.

Bob's Bar does a gargantuan five-litre Pimms punch as well as a two-litre version quaintly served in a cookie jar. They also have a one-litre Hendricks punch, a Provincial punch with cognac and the very enticingly named "Bowl of Belvedere" - vodka in a two-litre bowl of fruit.

At the Aviary, you can sup on a pitcher of Fish House punch with Mount Gay rum, brandy, peach syrup and lemon juice or super- summery red wine-based sangria.

Mr Bewsher says the key to a good punch is to keep it fresh and not too boozy - a drink made for grazing.

"We don't want them to be cocktails that wipe people out after two. They're designed for having a few over the course of a few hours."

At 399, they have punches to appeal to both men and women. "You have the more white spirits or white wine-based type punches which definitely prove more popular with a more feminine clientele and we've been doing a bit of a bourbon iced-tea punch which is pretty popular with our more masculine clientele," he says.

"We've also got a pineapple sangria with tequila and pineapple and a bit of white wine - that's for people who are on holiday - and then we have a bit of a strawberry shortcake-type punch.

"That's a bit more floral and, dare I say it, girlie. We want everyone to feel good about what they're drinking."

A zingy, fresh punch is for summer.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Change location


- °

Lifestyle Videos

Follow Us

More from The West