A guide to making the best spring punch from cocktail guru Derek Brown. 

By Chelsea Morse
Updated May 30, 2017
© Derek Brown

Mixology guru Derek Brown is the punch-obsessed genius behind some of Washington, DC’s most exciting cocktail destinations—including Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich and Southern Efficiency. His newest spot, Columbia Room, has three distinct spaces to suit drinkers’ moods. The bookcase-lined spirits library serves a whole menu of variations on the old-fashioned; the tasting room features multicourse cocktail tastings paired with snacks like pickled oysters and uni toast; and the outdoor punch garden serves refreshers like the citrusy Gin Punch à Ia Terrington, below. Here, he shares five tips to making the perfect punch at home:

1. Keep it light. Punches may have originated with sailors, but they're meant to be light and refreshing, so skip the heavy pours and round them out with sparkling water or sparkling wine.

2. Learn a little Latin. Repeat after me: oleo saccharum. It means "sweet oil.” Combine lemon peels and sugar together and either let sit overnight or muddle together until they become a paste. This combination works wonders in punches.

3. Gin haters, repent. Gin is a wonderful punch ingredient and deserves a place with fresh herbs and botanicals, especially in warm months. Pour the gin and raid your garden. You'll thank me. Try out the Gin Punch à Ia Terrington recipe below, and see what I mean.

4. Go big on ice. Learn who sells block ice nearby. First, you can't beat the presentation of a large ice block. Second, it keeps the punch from getting overly diluted.

5. Think outside the (booze) box. We mentioned gin, but we'd be remiss not to add brandy and rum. They're common to classic punches as dual characters. Think of brandy as your suave lead, rich and smooth, and rum as the young upstart, a little aggressive and punchy. Now you're talking blockbuster, right?

Gin Punch à Ia Terrington

Yields 15-20 servings


Peel of half a lemon
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups gin
3/4 cup Green Chartreuse
1 to 2 quarts seltzer water (to top)
Lemon verbena (optional)

Combine lemon peel and sugar until it forms a paste (you may leave this overnight in the fridge, or muddle until paste forms). Add spirits to mixture and stir until all solids are dissolved. Discard peel. Chill with ice and add seltzer to desired taste. Serve from punch bowl or pitcher.

Columbia Room, 124 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, DC; columbiaroomdc.com