Nothing says party quite like punch! This holiday version is made with brandy, apple cider, vanilla, and chai (yes, chai!) for a drink that’s sweet, well-balanced, and full of subtle spice flavors.
Punch has a long history of getting people convivially schnockered. As an alcohol delivery mechanism, it predates even the cocktail. (Apparently, on a single evening George Washington and a party of friends drank seven bowls of the stuff, among other things.)
A BIT ABOUT BRANDY IN PUNCH
Brandy is a hard liquor made from grapes – think of it as wine’s boozier cousin. Although it has faded from the scene a bit, brandy was once a very popular choice for cocktails. It has a nice richness and warmth, along with a bit of spice, which makes it a great choice for a punch.
You don’t need a fancy brandy for this punch; a mid-range (or even slightly cheaper) bottle will do well. I used Korbel. E & J is also nice. (Check the note below about sizes, though – you may need multiple bottles!)
WHAT IS CHAI?
Chai, or masala chai, as it’s known in India, is a mixture of black tea and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and anise. (Chai is the Indian word for tea, so technically speaking, ‘chai tea’ means ‘tea tea’.)
In India, it’s often brewed with milk (what we know here as chai latte), but this recipe simply calls for chai brewed with water. I give instructions to make the tea double strength to add extra flavor to the mixture.
DOUBLE OR TRIPLE THE RECIPE TO FILL A PUNCH BOWL
This punch can be served in a pitcher, a traditional punch bowl, or a drink dispenser on a stand. It all depends on how much you make!
The recipe below (once you add ice) comes to about 55 ounces. My punch bowl (I like this one) is three gallons, and a single gallon is 128 ounces, so I had to double the recipe to make the punch bowl look even remotely full (and tripling it probably would’ve been better).
Think about how many servings you want to make, multiply the recipe accordingly, and pick a receptacle to fit. Many punch bowls (and dispensers) look kind of silly when insufficiently filled with liquid, but you also don’t want to have the opposite problem and discover that your container is too small as you’re mixing the punch.
A BOOZE-FREE OPTION FOR NON-DRINKERS
You can leave the brandy out of the recipe and instead give your guests the option to spike the punch themselves on the side, if they want. This is a good option for a party with children or for people who like their drinks a little lighter on the alcohol.
MORE PARTY DRINK RECIPES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Boozy Chai-Spiced Apple Cider Punch Recipe
This punch is on the tart side. To make it sweeter, start with two tablespoons honey or simple syrup and add more until you reach your desired sweetness.
If you’re trying to fill a large punch bowl or countertop drink dispenser, I recommend doubling or even tripling the recipe.
The punch can be made a day or so ahead of time and kept it in the fridge until needed. Hold off on garnishing until you're ready to serve since the apples can get a bit dodgy.
- 2 bags chai tea or 3 teaspoons loose chai (I like Republic of Tea)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups brandy
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- 3/4 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Honey or simple syrup, as needed
- Lemon wheels or clove-studded apple slices, for garnish
1 Make the tea: Add 2 tea bags or 3 teaspoons loose chai tea to 1 1/2 cups of water. Steep for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
2 Combine all ingredients: Add the cooled brewed tea, brandy, apple cider, lemon juice, and vanilla extract to a pitcher. Add several handfuls of ice cubes or one large ice mold. Stir, and then garnish with lemon wheels and apple slices studded with cloves.
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