Beating bottle service to the punch

Downtown Cocktail Room.

Everything counts in large amounts, at least according to Depeche Mode. So this fall, why not forget bottle service as so many already have and try bowl service?! In mixology-minded cities like New York and London, drinkers are diving into punch bowls instead of splashing out for liters of spirits. The upside? Well, besides the price, which is generally much less than even a lesser vodka, “It is a giant, well-mixed cocktail,” says Downtown Cocktail Room owner Michael Cornthwaite, “served in the festive spirit of punch. It makes people excited and nostalgic, but this is not your grandmother’s punch.”

Bar Guide

Downtown Cocktail Room
111 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Looking forward to the holidays and seeking a back-to-basics approach to his fall menu, Cornthwaite says he discovered the punch menu at Manhattan’s Death & Company during his research. “In an effort to keep things fresh and innovative, as well as economically friendly for guests, I thought that punch could be a classic communal beverage suited for a festive environment. The main goal after that was to develop something special for those punch bowls!”

The DCR mixology team created three punches, which debuted along with the bar’s fall menu last Thursday. “Outside of a potluck supper in 1984,” Cornthwaite says he’s had no prior experience with punch. Few people have, he admits. “I think that it’s something people need to warm up to a bit. It hasn’t caught on yet.” Give it time.

The large glass bowls—all assorted and unique—yield about 32 dainty 4-ounce servings from matching punch cups. For $75 (or $42 for a half-gallon), guests can come together around the Downtown Milk Punch, a variation on that mentioned in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, which calls for brandy, green tea, milk, pineapple and baking spices. “It’s been more R&D than your average cocktail,” says bartender George Austin Sproule of the menu’s research and development process.

For all its twee, little etched cups and ladles, punch is as casual and self-serve as bottle service. Plus, “there’s something to be a said about … in a way, drinking from the same cup,” Sproule reflects. “I think once it catches on here it could be really big. It’s not an original idea at all.” He’s right! Communal drinking goes back to the ancient Greeks and beyond, making it in fact the original idea!

Around town, bartenders like Stripsteak’s Amanda Gager and ProgressiveBar’s Mark Kiyojima are mixing up punch behind the scenes for parties, friends and family. Dearly departed (for San Diego) bartender Trevor Thorpe, formerly of Noir Bar, served the first punch at DCR when he guest-tended July’s Mixology Monday, featuring Gin No. 209 and Thorpe’s own homemade bitters.

As for the rest of DCR’s fall menu, “I hesitate to say this,” says Cornthwaite, “but this menu is now my favorite of all that we have done in three years!”


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