The Fed "punch bowl"

November 26, 2015 12:00 PM

Since the onset of extraordinary accommodation from the Federal Reserve following the 2008 credit crisis, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and current Chair Janet Yellen have both publicly contemplated unwinding from the extraordinary measures. Press reports refer to this seemingly inevitable action as taking away the “punch bowl.” 

In monetary policy jargon, taking away the punch bowl refers to a central bank action to reduce the stimulus that it has been giving the economy. The punch bowl metaphor seems to trace back to a speech given on Oct. 19, 1955 by William McChesney Martin, who served as Chairman of the Fed from 1951 through 1970.

Well, the holidays are coming and if the Fed signals last call, you can still keep the party going.

Bring back the punch bowl! I don’t mean the bright red, mixed “fruit juice” of childhood memories, nor the retro lime sherbet variation of housewives past. The classic punch cocktail has a long history and evolution dating back to the 1600s and is the response of sailors needing to find ways to make rough spirits more palatable. The word punch has many definitions and evolved over time, but the modern mixologist or at- home host would likely describe it as any beverage, alcoholic or not, served in a large bowl to provide refreshment to multiple guests. Small cups or glasses are generally placed next to the bowl and the punch is usually self-served by way of the ladle.

Much like cooking, anything you can do in advance while hosting a party is advisable. A good hand shaken or stirred cocktail is not to be discounted, but should you host a gathering with even a modest number of guests who may consume beverages at any given speed, the host could very easily wind up spending the entire night bartending instead of engaging. The role of the punch bowl not only creates a romantic centerpiece but also a point of interest. Guests will naturally gravitate toward a punch, offering to serve friends, acquaintances or new introductions. The punch bowl creates a conversation piece as they sip, savor and relax into the evening. The self service nature and its generally grand scale of size also allows for guests to feel at ease as they know that during this evening they will be able to find a good drink.

When deciding how much punch to make, a decent general rule is to account for each guest to have one serving of punch per hour they are there. This allows for guests who drink more quickly to balance out guests who won’t drink at all, or choose to drink a different libation. Although it’s almost never possible to know exactly how much to make, a moderately easy punch can generally be whipped up and refilled in under 10 minutes and leftovers can be stored in airtight containers and refrigerated for up to two days following--a cause for celebration!

About the Author

Hillary Choo is an award-winning mixologist, brand ambassador and former bartender. Hillary has received multiple recognitions, most recently Top Ten Mixologists in Miami by The Miami New Times in 2013 and Bartender of the Year Miami by Eater. Hillary is Portfolio Ambassador Miami for Bacardi USA. Follow Instagram at HillaryChoo. @ohillaryo