May is one of my favourite months. The weather starts warming up and the trees come into their full greenery. It’s the month where we really start to enjoy the outdoors – and it’s the month, for many, where we get together for parties and celebrations.

With confirmation and communion season around the corner, it’s a time to consider how to feed and water large groups of visitors. ?Neven’s recipes are perfect to make ahead of time and can be easily scaled up to feed a crowd. However, when it comes to drinks, things might be a bit trickier. You want to treat your guests, but you don’t want to go bankrupt in the process. Here’s where a tradition from my younger years in Canada comes in handy.

Every Canadian household generally has a large glass bowl with a matching ladle and – sometimes – matching cups. All of these are specifically for punch, a drink we make for festive gatherings. The whole idea of a punch is to make a large quantity, which can be boozey or booze-free, depending on who might be imbibing. Often, there will be a “special” punch bowl for the adults at a party and another one for everyone else – the non-boozey punch will be out in the open while the “adult” punch will either be labelled or put somewhere a bit more discreet so little hands don’t mistake it for their own.

What makes a great punch? Believe me when I tell you it’s nothing fancy. Back home, we buy frozen, canned concentrated juice (orange, apple or fruit punch). Then, we would use 7UP or Sprite, a can of juice concentrate, some cranberry juice and plenty of ice. This is placed in the punch bowl and guests can help themselves. But punch, like anything, can be made in a variety of ways and with lots of different ingredients.

I love making seasonal punches depending on the time of year. At Christmas, only a rummy eggnog or rum milk punch will do. In the summer months, it’s fun to experiment with fruit or nettle syrups (there are some Irish businesses, like Wild About in Co Wexford, which make those), foraged ingredients like gorse flower or, in autumn, freshly picked sloes and blackberries.

Of course, you don’t have to go foraging for your ingredients. Whichever fresh berries, melon or fruit you have on hand with some Irish apple juice and a bit of sparkling water will always do the trick. The real question, then, is whether to use rum, gin or vodka for the alcohol element. Here are two punches I made to pair with Neven’s May feast – one for the grown-ups, and one that can easily be made kid-friendly by omitting the alcohol.

Moscato Sunset

Makes approximately two litres

750ml (one bottle) pink moscato

750ml (one bottle) prosecco

250ml smooth orange juice

Large handful of mint leaves, kept whole

250g sliced fresh strawberries

500g ice cubes

1 In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients together, except for the ice. Mix well. If you have a large enough jug (or a few jugs), pour the mixture into it and refrigerate until ready to serve, then serve over ice in a highball glass. If you are serving a crowd, simply leave it in the bowl, add the ice and let guests serve themselves with a ladle.

Crimson Splash

Makes approximately six litres

Crimson Splash Cocktail. \ Philip Doyle

2l 7UP, Sprite or sparkling water (if just for adults)

1l Irish apple juice

1l cranberry juice

500ml pomegranate juice

Large handful fresh mint leaves

500g mixed fresh berries (pitted cherries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries)

1 bag (2kg) ice cubes

750ml vodka (optional)

1 Mix the 7UP, apple juice, cranberry juice and pomegranate juice in a large vat or bowl. Add the berries, mint and vodka (if using) and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2 Add the punch to the ice right before serving and let guests help themselves. I would use one of the big Kilner drink jars for this (the one with the tap attached to the glass container).

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