The Ponche Navideño is an essential part of Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities for many in Mexico. From December through January, the period during which the holidays are celebrated, this sweet and fragrant punch can be found simmering away on stovetops and at outdoor markets all across the country. Its name directly translates to Christmas Punch, and while there are many variations of it, with households having their own recipes and personal touches, its main elements are winter spices, fresh fruits and dark spirits.
Featuring traditional Mexican flavorings such as fresh sugar cane, guavas and tejocotes (a crabapple-type fruit), the punch is often spiked with a healthy dose of rum and served piping hot to ward off any winter chills. However, here in the United States it can be hard to find many of these items fresh, so this recipe relies on easy-to-find ingredients that lend their flair to an irresistible rum punch. If you do manage to get your hands on some tejocotes, however, feel free to add them to the mix and cut down on the apples. In any case, it’s a fruity, rich, delicious punch to serve any time of year, but especially in winter.
- 10 ounces light rum
- 12 ounces piloncillo (Mexican-style unrefined brown sugar), grated, or 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
- 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 1 ripe pear, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup packed raisins or golden raisins
- 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers (also known as jamaica or sorrel), tied inside a square of cheesecloth
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 10 cups water
- Garnish: 12 lemon slices
In a large stockpot, add the water, piloncillo (or brown sugar), cinnamon sticks, cloves and tamarind paste, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, and stir to completely dissolve the tamarind paste. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the apples, pear, raisins and hibiscus flowers, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft and raisins are rehydrated.
Squeeze the remaining liquid out of the cheesecloth packet and discard. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves and discard. Stir in the lemon juice and rum.
Divide the punch between 12 punch glasses, thinly slice 2 lemons and garnish each glass with a slice.