I can get a little heavy-handed around the holidays. Not about gifts, not about the nitty gritty of a recipe, not even about rampant fetishization of jolly patriarchal figures of dubious origin. I do, however, have certain dictums around the creation of conviviality.

One of these dictums concerns punch: For the sake of poetry, unalienable rights, and reason — make one. Make a punch and watch your guests open themselves to the exchange of unusual affection. Here is a punch that I like. (By all means, give it a less tragic name.)



 for 4-6 servings:
8 white sugar cubes
2 ounces club soda
4 ounces Plymouth gin
2 ounces cinnamon orange tea-infused sweet vermouth*
4 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
3 ounces dry sparkling wine
1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)
grapefruit and lemon wheels for garnish

 In a pitcher, muddle the sugar cubes with the club soda until the sugar is fully broken up. Add the remaining ingredients (except the sparkling wine) and fill the pitcher ¾ full with ice cubes. Stir until cold, then strain into a punch bowl over 1 large block of ice. Top with the sparkling wine and garnish with the grapefruit and lemon wheels.

*For the cinnamon orange tea-infused sweet vermouth: In a large container, combine 3 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon-orange tea (available at, or any comparable cinnamon tea substitute) and one 750-ml bottle of Martini sweet vermouth and stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve.


for 24-30 appetizers:
1 pound dates, such as Medjool
1 pound thick sliced bacon, preferably applewood smoked
4 ounces blue cheese, such as Maytag

Preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the dates partially open to remove the pit. Pinch off a piece of blue cheese and place them into the center of the date, pressing them closed. Wrap a half slice of bacon firmly around each date, securing it with a toothpick. Arrange the bacon-wrapped dates in a baking dish (preferably with a wire rack to drain grease) and bake for 30-40 minutes until the bacon is crisp. Turn the dates once at around 20 minutes. Drain them, remove toothpicks, and serve immediately.



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