Trade a bake and take for some booze.

Harvest Punch
Credit: Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist: Claire Spollen, Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey

The preamble to the never-ending eat fest that is the end of November, Friendsgiving has become as much of a tradition these days as the parade or the carving of the bird. With my crew, it's celebrated potluck style, making it my annual, stress-free excuse to practice Mom's signature casserole. The only pressure is paying close enough attention to our text thread to call dibs on my go-to dish in time, a feat in and of itself.

This year, however, I'm trading the bake for some booze. Inspired by a pretty new punch bowl (who isn't jazzed to use new serveware?), I'm hoping to help my friends wash down all the starch one ladle of Harvest Punch at a time.

Even though the recipe is anything but difficult, I decided to give it a test run. I typically bake-and-take, so playing bartender falls a little outside of my comfort zone. I used Halloween as my excuse to make way too much juice for just two and took a few notes for next time.

First, I love that everything was easy to grab with one trip to the grocery store and a glance at my bar cart. I find that complicated cocktails often require an extra stop at the liquor store for a specialty ingredient I don't already have in stock. This punch breezed right past that step.

Flavor was the next big win. Despite the formula's simplicity, the seasonal ingredients really shine. Ginger beer and hard cider might seem like an odd match, but they mingle with cinnamon, fruit, and bourbon to make something wonderfully akin to a cold hot toddy. And while I know a punch is best when it's just boozy enough to let guests help themselves to several cups without being three sheets to the wind, I may up the bourbon on the next batch just a bit. It's more fun that way.

The recipe calls for at least 2 hours of refrigeration to let the flavors infuse, but my procrastination didn't quite allow for the full chill. Still, the lightly sweet and spicy blend delivered. I did manage to save the fizzy stuff for the finale to make sure my cup wasn't missing any bubbles before serving. Now all that's left is to remember to double up it up next time. My friends are nothing if not thirsty.