There’s no shortage of conjecture surrounding the origin (and definition for that matter) of the ubiquitous punch bowl, but what cocktail historians do agree on speaks to a heritage of communal and often raucous hydration. First introduced to Western Europe during the 17th century, the prototypical punch was ostensibly created by sailors in the British East India Company. During voyages to and from Old Blighty, these seamen often discovered their beer would turn sour: a persistent problem remedied by passing round a five-ingredient beverage that typically included brandy/wine, sugar, lemon, water and spices. Lo and behold, the miraculous birth of punch!

Some three centuries later, punches remain a fixture at bars around the world (having become an international staple during the heyday of Pax Brittania). The denizens of Hong Kong — accustomed to tropical rainstorms and 99 percent humidity — have always been keen consumers of the fruity big-batch stuff, particularly in the summer. Once the province of stiff colonial types, punches are experiencing a welcome revival, rejiggered by the city’s brightest mixologists as modern, fit-for-a-crowd thirst quenchers. Whether it’s to kick off an evening of merriment or for a revitalising boost on a hot day, here are 5 punch bowls to try before summer wanes.

Tinto de Verano (The Optimist) 

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The Optimist’s take on Tinto de Verano is as classic as they come; energised by the liberal use of merlot as a base and plenty of fresh fruit.

Ideal for a thirsty party numbering 6 or 7, The Optimist’s take on Tinto de Verano (“red wine of summer”) is a welcome alternative to sangria. Traditionally, Tinto de Verano is a simple recipe calling for equal parts red wine and mildly sweet carbonated beverage. At The Optimist the beloved Spanish staple is given a five star treatment: with the essential ingredients of merlot and lemonade enriched using brandy, orange juice and creme de cassis. Served over ice with slices of fresh citrus, this is a classic from the canon of summer punches made addictive by its use of premium ingredients.

The Optimist, G/F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2433 3324

Absolut Punchbowl (Vibes at The Mira) 

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While some might scoff at the prospect of downing raspberry vodka, the Absolut Punchbowl makes balanced use of the titular stuff, combining it with light and tangy citrus fruits.

Flavoured vodkas often get a bad rap amongst cocktail ascetics, but the clear spirit’s viability as a delivery mechanism for a wide variety of other ingredients has made it a firm favourite of experimental mixologists. This month, add some fruit to your potato-based diet by sampling the summer punch at Vibes — The Mira’s popular open-air lounge offering tunes and shisha until late. Centred around a nexus of raspberry vodka, each layer of the Absolut Punchbowl alternates between sweet and tart citrus: incorporating raspberry puree, lemon and a refreshing top off of prosecco.

Vibes, 5/F, The Mira, 118 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2315 5599

Moorea punch (Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge) 

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Served in a consummately Tiki styled punch bowl, the Moorea Punch is a novel way for couples to get their communal drink on.

This original creation from the mind of seasoned bartender Max Traverse utilises a balance of natural ingredients to deliver a refreshing and treacly drinking experience. Among Honi Honi’s most adorable sharing cocktails, the Moorea Punch prioritises all things red fruit: featuring creme de cassis, raspberry liqueur and raspberry puree overlaid on a backbone of Grey Goose. Served in a classic ceramic punch bowl, this punch’s fruit sweetness and floral garnish make it a popular choice for sharing amongst friends.

Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge, 3/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2353 0885

All Out Mai Tai (Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge)

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Available until October, the All Out Mai Tai is mixologist Pawel Mikuesk’s supercharged Instagram-ready take on the original concoction first popularised by Victor J Bergeron.

A steroidal reimagining of the humble daiquiri, the All Out Mai Tai is a force to be reckoned with. Marshalling together Tiki imagery, the primordial element of fire and enough booze to serve three, the newest addition to the Honi Honi menu is as heavy on rum as it is spectacle. Available during the ongoing “Tales of Tiki” pop-up (the next showcase will be held in October), the All Out Mai Tai is one of two original creations from the mind of Pawel Mikuesk — a Tiki veteran who cut his teeth at the notorious Mahiki bar in London.

Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge, 3/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2353 0885

Bali Boat (Potato Head Hong Kong)

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“We’re gonna need a bigger boat” is probably a line you’ll be mumbling after ladling a glass of Potatohead’s delicious and proprietary blend of Nusa Caña rum and Pimm’s.

First, an open riposte to cocktail pedants: yes yes, we get it, the Bali Boat isn’t technically a punch bowl. On the other hand, this classic Potato Head cocktail is a large-format drink, well suited to sharing, cribbing tropical influences from Balinese culture and produce. Served in a container resembling the traditional jukung (i.e. outrigger canoe), the Bali Boat easily serves five, building its delicious flavours on the much used punch bowl staple of Nusa Caña rum. Common flavours from the Balinese culinary canon (e.g. coconut and pineapple) are wed to ingredients with global appeal (think Pimm’s and hibiscus syrup); and the result is a beverage that has gone on to become an enduring classic at Potato Head’s various worldwide locations.

Potato Head, G/F, 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, +852 2858 6066 

Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.