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Orange & Spice (rum makes it nice)

(post, Deirdra Harris Glover)

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Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I take great umbrage with those who insist dressing up is only for children. I'm loath to turn down an opportunity to wear a costume and carouse with good friends, but the novelty of Frankenconcoctions made with absurd amounts of green sherbet and grain alcohol is lost on me. My days of finding inebriated guests asleep in my bathtub are thankfully over, and now I like to host cozy get-togethers with kindred spirits. Instead of a boozy free-for-all, I keep it simple with a mulled wine or a grownup punch. The company is better, the finger food isn't ignored in pursuit of an epic hangover, and the structural integrity of the house is never threatened by overindulgent revelry.

This punch is reminiscent of a classic mix called "Russian Tea," which is neither truly tea nor Russian, as it is comprised of instant iced tea and powdered orange drink once reserved exclusively for astronauts. Orange juice and chai spices meld with the caramel kick of spiced rum to create a sweetly fragrant punch that meanders between Mumbai and Barbados. It's suitable for any grownup occasion, but I think it's perfect for nights when the cold creeps into your bones.

Holiday Spice Punch
Servings: 10 to 12

 1 1/2 quarts orange juice
 3 cups liquid chai concentrate, or 1 quart chai tea, brewed and then reduced by half
 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
 3 to 4 cups spiced rum (to taste)
 Orange and lemon slices to garnish

Heat the chai concentrate and brown sugar in a stockpot until completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Add orange juice, tea mixture and rum to punchbowl, adjusting ratio of liquids to your taste.

Float citrus slices on top for garnish, and serve to well-behaved monsters.

This article originally ran in the Jackson Free Press*