Sophisticated party blends are spiking in popularity, combining fresh ingredients with high-end liquors

Trend alert: Punch is the new bottle service. Gone are the days of sloppy concoctions offered from a stainless-steel trashcan or sherbet-topped varieties presented in plastic bowls. Today’s punches are fresh and sophisticated, combining premium spirits with herbs, spices, citrus fruits and teas. As the craft-cocktail craze continues to raise the bar for bartending, punches are following suit. “Cocktail trends follow food trends,” says Sylvia “Sly” Cosmopoulos, corporate mixologist for Republic National Distributing Co. She has helped develop beverage programs for local restaurants, including Blue Sushi Sake Grill and the new Monty’s Corner. “With food, we’re seeing more family-style and communal dining. Punches are the family-style cocktail.”

Bartenders and hosts also are getting creative with punch-serving vessels, using everything from hollow watermelons to “wishing well” contraptions, in which guests use a pulley to draw the drink from the bottom up.

When planning your next spring soiree, consider creating one of these posh punches crafted by local experts especially for Indulge. Your guests will be drunk with punch love.

Wild West punch

Serves 8

Combining tea-infused vodka with Asian flavors like plum and ginger, the folks at Blue Sushi Sake Grill have created a twisted version of that Texas classic, sweet tea. The recipe calls for Yuzu Luxe Sour, a sweet-and-sour mixer that uses yuzu, a small Japanese citrus fruit similar to a tangerine. For extra flair, garnish punch glasses with slices of yuzu, which can be found at Asian markets.

12 ounces Absolut Wild Tea vodka

4 ounces Cointreau

4 ounces lemon juice

4 ounces Perfect Puree Yuzu Luxe Sour

4 ounces simple syrup (recommended: Finest Call brand)

16 dashes Fee Brothers Plum Bitters

8 ounces fresh pineapple

8 ounces water

16 ounces ginger beer

1. Muddle all ingredients except for water and ginger beer. Stir water into mixture.

2. Top with ginger beer and pour into a punch bowl. Garnish with pineapple or yuzu slices, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 193 calories, trace fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 4 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 1 percent of calories from fat.

Strawberry-basil punch

Makes 3 quarts

Chef Dena Peterson grows an herb and produce garden on a piece of land directly behind her Café Modern kitchen. Her ideal spring punch is garden-inspired and features ripe, sweet strawberries combined with fresh-picked basil leaves. Perfect for a spring shower or Sunday brunch, Peterson's punch is finished with sparkling champagne.

1 quart ripe strawberries, stems removed

2 cups sugar

4 cups water

Handful fresh basil leaves

Champagne, to taste

1. Place strawberries, sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until strawberries are soft.

2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Place in a blender with basil leaves, and puree. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. (Mixture can be refrigerated and stored up to two days.)

3. Combine 2 cups strawberry syrup and champagne in a punch bowl. Add ice as needed. Garnish with strawberry slices and basil leaves.

Nutritional information per 1-cup serving: 206 calories, trace fat, 23 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, trace sodium, no dietary fiber, 1 percent of calories from fat.

Sly’s sparkling sangree punch

Serves 8

Sylvia “Sly” Cosmopoulos travels the country from east to west to follow cocktail trends for Republic National Distributing Co. Her sparkling sangree (another name for sangria) bubbles with Pellegrino and prosecco while intermingling orange-flavored vodka with potent Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine. “With punches, you can create a large drink for a group of people that’s fresh, enticing and different,” Cosmopoulos says. “You have the feel of bottle service while staying mixology-driven with premium ingredients.”

12 ounces Grey Goose L’Orange vodka

4 ounces Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine (at Kings Liquor)

4 ounces agave nectar

4 ounces lemon juice

16 dashes Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters

Half pint fresh raspberries, plus more for garnish

8 ounces water

16 ounces San Pellegrino sparkling water

8 ounces Martini & Rossi Prosecco

Lemon slices, for garnish

1. Muddle first six ingredients. Stir in water.

2. Top with Pellegrino and prosecco and pour into a punch bowl. Garnish with raspberries and lemon slices, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 174 calories, trace fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 3 percent of calories from fat.