Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

In the past few years, I have noticed that more and more companies are holding their holiday parties in January, and (especially this year) companies — big and small — are opting to host informal gatherings at an employee’s home, rather than in a restaurant.

So, one of the questions I’m frequently asked is: “What is the perfect drink to serve to a variety of different people with different palates?”

The answer: One hasn’t been invented. You’re not going to please everyone. However, you can have a drink that works for the majority of guests.

People have worked on inventing such a drink for years. The key is balance. Create something too sweet, and it will turn off anyone who is a bourbon or whiskey drinker. Create something too alcoholic, and you risk losing those folks that have delicate palates.

When I speak of balance, I’m suggesting that you need to create a drink that has the right amount of alcohol, the right amount of sweet, enough acid to keep it interesting, a hint of bitterness to round out the sweet, and a look that doesn’t suggest you’re drinking pond water.

This Saturday marks the annual birthday celebration of my gorgeous wife, Kristi. (I’m not revealing any ages on this document because I enjoy breathing.) We always have a small get-together with close friends and family, and every year, I make my version of this perfect drink—a fruity punch called Jungle Juice.

You might have heard of this type of drink in your college days, as it is traditionally mixed in garbage cans and bathtubs, with a distinct disregard for any true taste; its primary function is to get people loaded. Also known as Gin Bucket (with gin mixes), Hunch Punch (made with Kool-Aid) or Spodie, it is not a very good drink and is generally created solely to make everyone extremely sick come morning.

My version, if I say so myself, has been carefully crafted over the years to balance the flavors I described. I’ve always kept this a secret, but in honor of my wife’s birthday, I’ve decided to release it for the first time. So, for your next holiday celebration, or just gathering of friends, try this friendly recipe. It’s easy to make, easy to serve, and very easy to consume.

Cheers (and happy birthday, honey!).

Benji’s Jungle Juice
Makes about 3 gallons.

1 bottle Stolichnaya Stoli Razberi
1 bottle Stolichnaya Stoli Ohranj
3 oz. triple sec
1 container frozen orange juice concentrate
1 bottle cranberry-grape cocktail
1 two-liter bottle Sprite
1 bottle champagne
2 limes, sliced
2 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
Sliced strawberries, to taste

In a large bowl, combine both Stolis and triple sec with sliced fruit. Allow to sit for about an hour. Add frozen concentrate and allow to dissolve, about one hour. Add juice cocktail.

When party is close to beginning, add chilled Sprite and champagne.

Serve over ice. Enjoy.

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