Here, Scott Baird, co-founder of the Bon Vivants and the acclaimed cocktail hotspot Trick Dog in San Francisco, shares his recipe for a holiday punch that he calls Noche Silencio (Silent Night). Although there a few different steps for making the punch, the prep work can be done in advance, so all you have to do is combine the ingredients and garnish the punch on the day of the party. One of the charms of this and other punches, according to Scott, is that “your guests will experience its flavors over the duration of your party differently. That’s the beauty of punch; it changes over time as you serve it.” Piloncillo is an unrefined cane sugar that can be found in almost any market specializing in Latin American ingredients. It’s typically pressed into cones that are roughly the color of brown sugar. If you have leftover pineapple agua fresca, mix it with fresh lime juice and Demerara simple syrup for a refreshing nonalcoholic drink.
Noche Silencio Punch
For the Navideño syrup:
- 1 lb. (500 g) piloncillo
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) coarsely chopped fresh pineapple
- 10 dried cherries or prunes
- 6 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 5 dried hibiscus flowers
- 2 Mexican cinnamon sticks, each about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long
- 1 tamarind pod, outer pod removed
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 cups (40 fl. oz./1.25 l) water
For the roasted pineapple agua fresca:
- 3 fresh pineapples
- 1 bottle (1 liter) Tapatio Añejo Tequila
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) Ancho Reyes Original
- 1 bottle (750 ml) Historic Series Charleston Sercial Madeira
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) strained fresh lemon juice
- Very thinly sliced pineapple rings for garnish
- Fresh lime juice as needed
1. To make the Navideño syrup, in a large pot over high heat, combine the piloncillo, pineapple, dried cherries, cardamom pods, hibiscus flowers, cinnamon sticks, tamarind pod, bay leaf and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the piloncillo is dissolved, then immediately lower the heat. Cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a large clean jar. The syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
2. To make the roasted pineapple agua fresca, peel all the pineapples. Cut each pineapple into 8 spears. In a nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, add as many pineapple spears as will fit in a single layer. Cook, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is mahogany brown on two sides. Transfer to a platter. Repeat to brown the remaining pineapple spears. Let the pineapple cool to room temperature.
3. Using a fruit and vegetable juicer, juice the pineapple spears. Measure out the quantity of juice extracted and transfer the juice to a large clean jar. Add an equal quantity of water. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
4. To assemble the punch, about 6 hours before you plan on serving the drink, in a very large container, combine 6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) of the pineapple agua fresca, 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) of the Navideño syrup, the tequila, Ancho Reyes liqueur, madeira, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and chill to allow the flavors to marry. After about 6 hours, taste the punch and adjust as necessary, adding a little lime juice, pineapple agua fresca or Navideño syrup as necessary to balance the flavors. Keep in mind that the ice will dilute and soften the punch over time.
5. About 30 minutes before your guests arrive, combine the punch and a large block of ice in a large punch bowl. Moments before the guests arrive, garnish the punch with pineapple slices. Serve the punch with holiday cheer, love and goodwill to all.