My favorite of the winter holidays is New Year's Day. Fresh starts, resolutions, and good-luck foods, this is a holiday I can believe in. Most years I host a New Year's Day party, an easy, casual get-together for family and friends that centers around an evolving menu of good-luck foods; my grandmother's black-eyed peas, a big pot of greens, cornbread, and this wicked and magical whiskey punch that I brew all day and present to my guests as a charm for joy in the new year.
I don't exactly have a recipe for this punch, and it is a little different every year, which seems appropriate. Here's the general idea - experiment to your heart's content:
Hot, Spicy Whiskey Punch
1 gallon apple cider
3-4 cups orange juice
4 cups water
3-4 lemons, halved, divided
1-2 apples, halved
26 cloves (pretend you're in Waldorf pre-school and stick the cloves into the oranges, it's very relaxing)
4 or 5 cinnamon sticks
1 ginger root, peeled (doesn't have to be perfect) and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a HUGE piece of ginger this year, which made the punch very spicy and everybody loved it)
Honey or maple syrup (I ended up using a little less than a cup of honey)
Put cider, juice, water, 2 lemon halves, oranges, apples, and spices in a big pot and bring to a gentle boil.
Simmer 3-4 hours. Add some honey or maple syrup to taste and simmer 1 more hour.
Strain well and return to pot. Juice remaining two lemons and add lemon juice to taste. Add honey or maple syrup to taste, if you need it. Return to gentle simmer (not boil) and keep warm.
To serve: Ladle punch into a cup. Add whiskey (at least 1/2 shot).
Make a wish.
Happy New Year!