Birthday Punch

It’s my birthday again so to celebrate I’m giving you a present. The recipe is my Dad’s champagne punch which he has served at many a holiday party. Joe’s Champagne Punch is sneaky. After a few glasses you realize this punch serves as much of a wallop as my daughter’s boxing coach dishes up in the ring. Only it’s a cocktail wallop and you don’t realize how potent it is until after you’ve had a few glasses. Whenever Dad stirs up a batch I can hear Mom warning people, “You have to be careful with this champagne punch because it goes down soooo easy!”

When my parents serve this they mix it up in a cut glass punch bowl. A few months before I got married (and well before the advent of Photoshop) I did a job where I needed to bring a wall thermostat frozen into a block of clear ice to a photo shoot. Not really food styling, but it was a job. I found a great company near Boston who had discovered how to freeze solid objects in clear ice. For our wedding Shawn and I had them make us an ice bowl filled with flowers which we used to serve Joe’s champagne punch out of.  For my 50th birthday bonfire celebration we nestled a giant stainless steel mixing bowl into a snowdrift an ladled the punch out of that. However you serve it don’t forget to warn people of its potency or plan on making your party a sleepover.

"Joe Caldwell's champagne cocktail"

My dad Joe and his LED champagne apron

Joe’s Champagne Cocktail

2 cups orange juice

2 cups pineapple juice

3 cups lemon juice

1 bottle brandy

4 bottles champagne

Simple syrup to taste


Make the simple syrup by combining 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat and cool. I often find my self doing this step at the last-minute in the middle of winter so I simply put the pan on the back steps to cool down. If you find yourself perilously close to party time you can also place the pan of simple syrup in a bowl filled with ice, which should cool it down quickly.

Once you’ve made a batch of simple syrup find yourself a huge punchbowl or bowl. Mix everything together except the simple syrup. Mix the simple syrup in to taste. My husband and I like the punch a little bit tart, but it really is something you should taste and decide. You can also mix it up so it’s tart, then leave a small pitcher of simple syrup on the side for guests who like things sweeter.

You can also make a small party-size batch by quartering the recipe to use just one bottle of champagne.

"Joe's champagne cocktails"

Whatever you do don’t try to save time by pre-releasing the cork cages. One year Dad thought he could save time at their annual Christmas party by untwisting all the wire fasteners on the champagne corks. The holiday festivities were in full swing when suddenly the kitchen was filled with the retort of champagne corks ejecting themselves from their bottles at random. Bubbly (yet happy) chaos ensued.


Filed under 50 Recipes

7 responses to “Birthday Punch

  1. Vicki

    Wonderful story, Cynthia. Love all the family connections to the recipe. Thanks!

  2. Andy Massad

    Hi Cindy! Am curious what kind of brandy suits best? Looking forward to this one as I do favor the old school.

    • Andy-I asked Joe and he said any brand of brandy will suffice. What I have found is that if you decide to not use the entire bottle it should be something good enough to enjoy on it’s own. I didn’t mention, but should have that a dry champagne is preferable to balance out the fruit juices and sugar syrup. Cheers!

  3. alexis


  4. Marcy Caldwell

    Hi BIRTHDAY GIRL one day later –
    That punch fueled so many stories. Holiday time in Syracuse is apt to be snowy. With the party in full swing, many boots were lined up in the front hall. The morning after our party we realized there was an unknown pair of boots in the hall. A guest sheepishly called to say she had left the party in her “party shoes” and never noticed the snow and ice many inches deep outside. Her comment was, “That was some punch!”

    We make the punch rarely now and add less brandy than we once did but it is still good. Champagne wire cork toppers are never undone until the Champagne is needed.

    Wish you had included a photo of the “ice bowl” the punch was in at your wedding. As I remember there were real flowers imbedded in the clear ice. Happy times.

    Love, Mom

    • If forgetting your boots in the middle of a Syracuse winter isn’t a sign of this cocktail’s potency I don’t know what is! So many fun stories associated with this recipe.

      I will try to dig out a picture of the wedding punch bowl.


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