photos by Lena Watanabe
Last Thursday, cocktail enthusiasts braved the rain to attend ‘Twas the Punch Before Christmas, a punch contest presented by Matt Robold (RumDood) and sponsored by Kraken Rum. It all took place in the upstairs area at Malo.
The contest entries were whittled down to five (initially six) finalists, a formidable lineup of mixology talent: Chris Bostick (The Varnish), Zach Patterson (STK), Blair Reynolds (Trader Tiki), Jason Schiffer (320 Main), and Chuck Taggart (Looka!). The judges were Marleigh Riggins (SLOSHED!), Joe Keeper (Bar Keeper), and Joe Brooke (Copa d’Oro), recently named America’s Top Bartender.
Each contestant had their own station to prepare and serve their respective punches for the judges and the eager crowd. Because of work commitments, Chris Bostick’s entry was mixed and served by Forrest Cokely. All the contestants chatted amiably with guests as the punches were served, explaining the ingredients and sharing their experiences in creating their punches. The array of ingredients and hours spent on recipe creation were impressive, and the complex, unique flavor profiles meant there was a punch for everyone. Presentation ranged from Chris’ minimalist approach to Jason’s elaborate orange peel tendrils.
Besides sampling the punches, guests could nibble on snacks provided by Malo. The butternut squash soup was especially good, and welcomed on a cold and rainy night. Even better was the Hot Buttered Rum with the Kracken Black Spiced Rum. Mine was nice and hot, but my friends had drinks that were either lukewarm or cold. It’s all in the timing, I guess…
After everyone had a chance to taste the entries, the judges picked Chuck’s Ponche Relajante (“Relaxing Punch”) as the winner. Chuck was genuinely surprised and humbly accepted the $500 prize with a resounding “WHO DAT?” Chuck’s punch will be featured on Malo’s menu the rest of the month, another pleasant surprise for Chuck and a chance for Angelenos to taste the winner.
Guests could participate in the judging by voting for the People’s Favorite, which turned out to be Zach’s Port of Portland Punch.
A fun time was had by all, thanks to everyone who put together a great event. Here’s hoping the punch contest becomes a new holiday tradition for L.A. cocktail enthusiasts!
Update 12/15: For all the recipes and additional pics, check out this recap from the RumDood.
Below are the five finalists and their punch ingredients. For the full recipe and insight into the creative process behind his winning punch, be sure to check out Chuck’s blog post, “Una Noche de Ponche.”
Ponche Relajante by Chuck Taggart (Judges’ Favorite)
- Gran Centenario Rosangel Tequila
- Del Maguey Mezcal Minero
- Fino Sherry
- Licor 43
- Guayera Liqueur de Damiana
- Demerara sugar
- “Seven Blossoms” Tea
- Lemon & lime juice
- Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Bitters
- Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Port of Portland Punch by Zach Patterson (People’s Favorite)
- Kracken Black Spiced Rum
- Canton Ginger Liqueur
- Green Tea
- Gum Syrup & Vanilla Citrus Blend
- Topped with Prosecco
Punch You in the Eye Punch by Chris Bostick
- Green tea-infused El Tesoro Silver Tequila
- Scarlet Ibis Rum
- Cucumber Demerara Syrup
- Lemon & grapefruit juice
- Topped with Ting soda
Blackheart Punch by Blair Reynolds
- Cruzan Black and Amber Rum
- Iced black tea
- Cinnamon syrup
- Lemon & lime juice
Tonjok Punch by Jason Schiffer
- Bols Genever
- Batavia Arrack
- Depaz Cane Syrup
- Simple Syrup
- Lemon juice
- Peychaud’s Bitters
- Topped with Chandon Brut