Nothing says “party” like a big, festive bowl of punch. But, if you want to turn the “holiday cheer” up to 11, you’re going to need something even more spectacular: flaming punch! Yes, a few carefully-lit flames dancing across the surface of holiday punch will spread warmth and cheer throughout your party, reminding guests of cozy days of yore.
However, as the goal is to impress—not terrify—party guests, it is utterly important to be careful when executing a flaming punch. Here are a few safety tips.
- Have flaming punch earlier in the party, when you’re feeling most cognizant and capable—it’s not ideal to work with fire once you’re smashed, sozzled, three sheets to the wind, etc.
- Use heat-proof tools and vessels when lighting the punch on fire. Get your tongs and oven mitts ready and use either an enameled cast-iron pot, a basic Pyrex bowl, or something like this pretty, heat-proof mixing bowl.
- Even after the fire has burned out, remember that the punch may still be very hot. Serve the punch carefully with a heat-proof ladle (metal works fine), and use mugs or (it’s our favorite word again) heat-proof glasses, ideally made from tempered glass.
- In regards to the previous point: Do NOT drink the punch until the flame is out. Fun fact: Your mouth will not put out flaming liquor.
In summary, fire hot, don’t drink fire, heat-proof good.
Charles Dickens’ Punch
A great recipe for your first excursion with flaming punch is this classic recipe for Charles Dickens’ Punch. It has simple ingredients of rum, brandy, sugar, lemons, and tea, but you can garnish your punch as festively as you want with various other citrus fruits, herbs, and spices. As the recipe mentions, regular proofs of rum (40% alcohol by volume) could be tricky to ignite, and may require pre-warming in the microwave. Using an overproof rum (at least 50% abv) is a shortcut for easier punch-lighting, as the higher alcohol content is more flammable. The flames will burn some of the alcohol off from the punch as they caramelize sweet garnishes, creating ambient blue-hued flames on any floating citrus peels.
Feuerzangenbowle, or “fire-tongs punch,” involves lighting a sugar cone (held by the namesake tongs) on fire as it drips sugary flames into mulled wine. The punch itself is not completely lit on fire, but the flaming sugar creates a pretty display with dim lighting. In this recipe for Feuerzangenbowle, or Flaming German Mulled Wine, overproof rum is required to make the sugar cone which is lit on fire and then drizzled, aflame, into mulled wine. As with the previous recipe, the overproof rum is key for easy ignition.
Clarence’s Flaming Rum Punch
In a bar scene from the quintessential Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Clarence the angel orders a “flaming rum punch,” but quickly switches to a mulled wine, all the while garnering scorn from Nick the barkeep. Since you don’t have to abide by that judgy bartender from Pottersville, you can make Clarence’s first choice without getting any guff. If you’re having a smaller get-together, you can tailor-make this version of Clarence’s Flaming Rum Punch for each of your party guests, utilizing tempered glasses like these. First, you rim the glass with the orange wedge and sugar. Then, you add all of the “splashes” (orange juice, pineapple juice, cherry brandy, and grenadine). The next step, “floating” the overproof rum (keeping it atop the drink, instead of letting it blend with the other liquids) can be difficult, but if you practice using these techniques, you will have more success in igniting the drink.
The key to this recipe is to float the overproof rum shot, light that on fire (floating on top of the other ingredients), and then put it out with the second shot of regular-proof rum (or by stirring with a metal spoon). Once again, there should be NO drinking of flaming liquids until the fire has been put out. Clarence would never do such a thing.
In an achieving-fire sense, the flaming rum punch is definitely the most challenging of the three; the Charles Dickens punch has plenty of overproof rum to help out, and the Feuerzangenbowle relies only on the spectacle of the flaming sugar cone. Whichever you choose, your guests will be sure to appreciate the extra-special holiday touch only fire can bring —even if that special touch involves watching you waste match after match on poorly-floated rum (you’ll get the hang of it next time!). Happy holidays!
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