Non-alcoholic ingredients are great for all punches
When I worked under Kathy Casey, doing beverage consulting and menu development, I think the hands down most important thing she taught me was:
Don’t try to get all of the sweetness for your cocktails from liqueurs.
Even though in the template above I suggested that you could do this, you should know that buttressing liqueurs with simple syrup makes cocktails and punches better. This is something that I somewhat knew but didn’t have the discipline to make dogma. Mastering non-alcoholic sweeteners, will make all of your cocktails and punches better— it will also stretch the usefulness of liqueurs and the budget for your punches. N/A Punch ingredients fall into 5 categories: water, sweetener, acid, weak and spice. For alcoholic punches, the 5th category would swap “water” for “spirit,” but remember, most bottles of spirits are actually bottles for 40% alcohol and 60% water.* And in case the trivia had missed you, the word “punch” has it’s origin in sanskrit word: पञ्च “pañc” meaning “five.” While punches aren’t limited to 5 ingredients, good punches with use their ingredients to address the flavors: spirit, sour, sweet, weak and spice.
To add flavor without alcohol, these are my favorite ways to stretch my dollar. Also, when you are making those maternity ward drinks, this is how you avoid something tasting just like hummingbird nectar.
Herbs have bitter oils that help balance sweetness, bruise them in a punch bowl, pitcher or shake them in a jug. I don't recommend making syrups out of herbs, it deadens the aroma.
Punches are a great opportunity to use juices that you wouldn't normally have a glass of; apricot, papaya, pineapple-coconut blend all come to mind. Cloying alone, when cut with acidity and blended with other flavors these are great. I have always appreciated the Santa Cruz brand.
Many companies make high quality fruit syrups, I love D'arbo because of their lack of preservatives and their use of mature flavors. They make an excellent, inexpensive cassis and elderflower syrup for about $10 a bottle.
small hands food
Everything that small hands foods does is as good as is gets. Everything they make, make every cocktail better. For punches, using gomme syrups will improve the body and palate of the drink.
B G Reynolds
These tiki syrups are bold. When liqueurs and subtle ingredients can get lost, B G Reynolds will standout and add structure to a long drink.
Odd flavors that add depth to punches, Tippleman's is all natural and throws a curve at the flavor you'd be expecting.
I said "Angostura & Peychaud's" earlier but I did so for you, not for me. I mentioned them because they are easy to find, but I pretty much always use, organic, quality and fresh Scrappy's Bitters. All of them are great and bitters maker everything better.
From just infusing cucumbers into water to La Croix, topping punches with a touch of "not sugar" flavor is always helpful.