Vodka Punch with Orange, Grapefruit, and Lemon

It’s almost New Year’s Eve. That means it’s time to run to Party City and buy a $15 plastic punch bowl. (Lucky you if your parents’ attic yields a free glass punch bowl.) It’s time to fill the punch bowl with a basic vodka punch improved by freshly squeezed juices, homemade sugar syrup, and mint. It’s time to grab a pack of tropical paper umbrellas to garnish your punch cup. It’s time to toast 2012!

I’m currently far, far south across the Caribbean & the Atlantic. (I wrote this before I left, naturally.) I’ll be spending New Year’s in Cusco, Peru, drunk on Pisco Sours, exhaustion from our Machu Picchu visit, and altitude sickness.

This punch satisfies a bunch of the needs of the quarter-life New Year’s Eve host. It makes a big batch from just two not necessarily high quality bottles of vodka. It tastes really good. It’s not too much work (though I do suggest investing in a handheld citrus juicer and using more grapefruits than lemons, since they yield way more juice per fruit). And you don’t have to worry about spending much time in the kitchen, mixing up fancy drinks by the glass.

2011 has been a year of good food, happy occasions (a book! an engagement!), and hard work getting In the Small Kitchen into as many hands as humanly possible and Small Kitchen College up and running. In 2012, we’ll keep up bringing you more awesome food (and in early January, it’ll even be healthful), and new and awesome partnerships both in real life and on the web. Here’s hoping ’12 is a year of fun and joy for all of you, our readers.

From my kitchen, saying cheers!, to yours,



Vodka Punch with Orange, Grapefruit, and Lemon
Serves 12-20

If you really need to streamline the work, purchase freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice. You can sub in Tropicana for half of the juice, but if you do it for all you’ll be sorry.

3-4 cups vodka
3 cups orange vodka (optional; you can also use more plain vodka)
4 cups mixed freshly squeezed lemon, orange and grapefruit juice
2 to 2½ cups Zesty Sugar Syrup with Mint (recipe follows)
1 quart seltzer
2 cups champagne
3 tablespoons orange bitters (I used Regans)
6 cups ice
Mint leaves for garnish

Combine 3 cups of the plain vodka and the orange vodka in a large punch bowl. Add the juices, 2 cups of the sugar syrup, the seltzer, champagne, and orange bitters. Mix well, then taste: you can add more vodka, more sugar syrup, or both.

Add the ice, and garnish with the mint leaves.

Zesty Sugar Syrup with Mint
Adapted from Speakeasy
Makes 4 cups

The citrus can be made up to a week in advance, though once you add the mint you’ve only got 2 or 3 days. If you don’t have much time at all, skip the mint-imbuing step and just make the citrus syrup the day of.

3 1/3 cups sugar
2 cups
Zest of 1 lemon, in 1-inch pieces (use your grater, not your microplane/zester)
Zest of 1 orange, in 1-inch pieces (use your grater, not your microplane/zester)
1/2 bunch mint leaves

Combine the sugar and the water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil, continuing to stir. Remove from the heat, add the orange and lemon zest, and let the syrup cool completely. Store in the fridge.

At least 4 hours before serving, add the mint leaves to the syrup. Cover and refrigerate. Strain out the mint leaves, squeezing every last bit of syrup from them. Use the syrup, or keep another 2 days in the fridge.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Anonymous

    this looks good! Happy New Year!

  • Rachel Joy Larris

    How much fruit juice does the recipe actually call for? Is it 4 Cups EACH of Orange/Lemon/Grapefruit or just 4 cups total?

    • BGSK

      It’s 4 cups total – thanks for asking.

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