When you throw a party and want your guests to have a drink as soon as they take off their jackets punch does the trick. It can handle a mob of arrivals that would crush a bar making drinks to order. You can buy beautiful old cut glass punch bowls cheap at flea markets and garage sales. Settle a giant hunk of ice in the middle of the bowl. As it melts the flavor of the punch changes, the architecture of the evening follows suit.
There are several bars in New York (Prime Meats, for one) doing punch service either at bar or table side. San Francisco, too. And one in Ann Arbor. Punch originated in Southeast Asia, quickly moved with sailors to the West Indies and before the age of the cocktail it was the most common blended drink in America. After that it unfairly faded into kitsch. Old cocktail books often have whole sections devoted to it. It fits nicely into the flow of traditional American food.
If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend Punch by David Wondrich. Wondrich writes some of the most comprehensive treatises on drinking today. He has a few books under his belt and commits a regular column to Esquire. I always learn interesting tidbits from him. Like from this book: bartending was traditionally a woman’s job in eighteenth century England; the term “pop-in” meant a shot of booze dropped in a mug of beer.