Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

Ponche Navideño is a hot punch served with or without alcohol during the holiday season and most generally during Las Posadas. On those chilly nights this warm and fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out. I plan to make this often during the winter months here in Colorado.

Since starting this blog, I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with holiday drinks and learning about traditional Mexican ingredients. My grandma made a very similar calientito (warm drink) around the holidays but it did not have all of the unique ingredients listed below. This recipe was adapted from one created by Fany Gerson in her My Sweet Mexico cookbook. Below is the final outcome after some experimenting. I wanted a touch of citrus and spice, hence the addition of the orange and cloves. Thank you Fany for the inspiration.

It was exciting to learn about some of the unique ingredients that are commonly used in a traditional ponche. Tejocotes was an ingredient I had never purchased before. At $9/pound I know why. I figured I’d buy half a pound and see what they were all about and I’m so happy I did. They have a sweet and sour taste, which is reminiscent of something between a plum and an apricot. If you do not have access to this fruit you can substitute with crab apples.

Another unique ingredient I had never purchased before were guavas. The ones I used were yellow, over ripened, soft, and very sweet, but that was perfectly fine because they dissolved in the water and added a uniquely sweet taste to the ponche.

My mom sold tamarind in our family’s neighborhood grocery store and although all the barrio kids loved it, it never appealed to me. I can’t believe I lived this long without ever trying it. It has a very unique tart flavor and gives the punch its rich warm color.

Here’s hoping you will venture out to your nearest Mexican grocery store and purchase some of these exotic ingredients to make your ponche Navideño. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’re hooked.

Brandy or tequila can be added, making it ponche con piquete (punch with a sting).

Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 5 long tamarind pods, husk removed, and seeded or boil the entire pod to make removing easier
  • ½ pound tejocotes or crab apples, left whole
  • 6 large guavas, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks
  • 2 red apples (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks
  • 1 pear (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks
  • 2 (4-inch) sugarcane sticks, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 cone piloncillo, chopped or 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 ounce brandy or tequila per cup (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, over high heat, boil water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind, and tejocotes. After it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the tejocotes are soft.
  2. Remove the tejocotes from the heat, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.
  3. Add guavas, apples, pears, sugar cane, prunes, orange slices, and piloncillo.
  4. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.
  5. Ladle into cups, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit.
  6. Add brandy or tequila to each cup (optional).

Published in "Latin Twist"

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Tejocotes / Source / Daniel Manrique
Guava / Source / photodoris
Tamarind / Source /
The Brazilian Foodie
Ponche Photography by Jeanine Thurston

UPDATE: This recipe is published in “Latin Twist