Nothing finishes a holiday spread better than a gorgeous bowl of punch. Score some persimmons at your local market this year to make a seasonal punch that’s as tasty as it is festive.
The holiday season also happens to be persimmon season — you can usually find them in US markets through December (I’m still seeing them at my Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s). There a quite a few varieties of persimmons out there, but for this recipe it’s best to stick to the “fuyu” persimmon, which is sweet, and are can be eaten while still a little firm. Fuyu persimmons are the ones that are squat and kind of doughnut-shaped (more like a doughnut peach, if you’ve come across those before).
“Hachiya” persimmons — the ones shaped more like big, pointy acorns — will be sweet only when very very ripe (think overripe). You can still use them, but wait until they’re extremely soft before you cut into them, and then test a slice or two to make sure they don’t taste astringent. You’ll know an unripe, astringent persimmon when you taste it; the mouthfeel is notably odd, like cotton or fur.
Since persimmons aren’t extremely juicy, I like to infuse them sous vide to extract as much fresh flavor as possible without cooking out the brighter notes. If you’ve read any of my posts about how useful the sous vide method is for cocktail enthusiasts, you know that the equipment is way more simple than it sounds, and surprisingly affordable. As a bonus for small-space dwellers like myself, precision cookers take up hardly any space in your kitchen — I keep mine in a drawer, then pair it with this stockpot from Tuxton Home, which has a sous vide port built right into the lid.
When the persimmon-gin infusion is finished (I add vanilla bean and cinnamon for aromatics — just wait until you catch a whiff), I love to prepare this punch in a more visually dramatic way for the holidays: table side, with muddled sugar and a little bubbly. There should be just enough punch to go one round — not to sit around languishing. When you’re ready for the next round, you make it fresh.
The punch is MUCH better in small batches, and if you prep the ingredients beforehand, it should come together in less than a minute — just muddle, pour and stir. Bonus points if you chill the bowl beforehand (this one holds a chill extremely well), and use crystal clear ice.
- 6 oz gin
- 1 fuyu persimmon, roughly chopped into 1/4 inch pieces)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 1 inch piece of vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla)
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 8 oz sparkling wine
- 2 oz Aperol
- 2 oz fresh squeezed/strained lemon juice
- 2 oz fresh squeezed/strained grapefruit juice
- 4 dashes angostura bitters
- Infuse the gin: Set your precision cooker to 145 degrees. Combine the gin, persimmon, cinnamon, and vanilla in a ziplock bag, then seal using the “water displacement method” — submerge the bag slowly into a pot filled with water, letting out as much air as possible as you slide it into the water, creating a vacuum effect. Seal the bag and clip it to the side of the pot, or stabilize with a rack. Let cook for 2 hours, then remove and immediately submerge in an ice bath. Strain with a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
- In a small, freezer-chilled punch bowl, combine the sugar and a splash of the champagne. Muddle until the sugar is almost completely dissolved. Add extra large ice cubes and the remaining ingredients. Stir until well chilled, then ladle into punch glasses and serve immediately.