If you are in need of a delicious Christmas beverage, look no further than this traditional Ponche Navideño, a Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch. Filled with delicious and unique ingredients, this recipe is sure to transport you somewhere a little warmer during the holiday season.
Warm and tart, filled with sugar and spice and everything nice, this Ponche Navideño is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Add a nip of brandy or tequila to make this a very merry way to celebrate this Christmas.
This recipe is published in Latin Twist, and it is delicioso!
What is Ponche?
Ponche Navideño, which is also sometimes known as Ponche Mexicano, is a traditional Mexican fruit beverage. Ponche, which means punch, is essentially a warm fruit punch.
Think of it like the Mexican version of Spiced Apple Cider. Except instead of only apples and oranges, the punch is also made with some pretty cool Mexican fruits that you might not yet be familiar with. I know I wasn’t when I first tried it!
Ponche can be served with or without alcohol. It is most often consumed during the holiday season, generally during Las Posadas. On chilly nights, this warm and fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out.
Special Ingredients You’ll Need for Ponche
Since starting this blog in 2010, I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with holiday drinks and learning about traditional Mexican ingredients. While I was unfamiliar with this particular recipe until just a few years ago, my grandma used to make a very similar calientito (warm drink) around the holidays.
It was exciting to learn about some of the unique ingredients that are commonly used in a traditional ponche. While it is likely that you’ll need to make a special trip to your local supermercado to find the ingredients needed to make this yummy Christmas drink, I promise it’s worth the extra effort!
Tejocotes (a.k.a. Hawthorne Apples) are an ingredient I had never purchased before making this ponche. They have a sweet and sour taste, which is reminiscent of something between a plum and an apricot.
TIP: If you do not have access to tejocotes you can substitute with crab apples.
Another unique ingredient I had never purchased before were guavas. When green, they look like limes and are ripe, when yellow, they are over ripened, soft, and very sweet. This fruit is soft and they dissolve in the water and add a uniquely sweet taste to the ponche.
TIP: Have some fruit that’s on the way out? Making a warm cocktail like this ponche, my spiced mulled wine, or homemade apple cider is a great way to give your fruit new life.
My mom sold tamarind pods 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 to my 30s without ever trying it! It has a very unique tart flavor and gives the punch its rich, warm color.
The last ingredient that you might not yet be familiar with is piloncillo, which is a special type of raw cane sugar that has a delicious caramel flavor. It is often sold in cones, and for this recipe you’ll need one.
TIP: No piloncillo? No problem! Simply substitute dark brown sugar instead.
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 will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’ll most definitely be hooked!
How to Make Ponche Mexicano
This Ponche Navideño is actually quite simple to make once you have found the necessary ingredients.
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.
Remove the tejocotes from the heat, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.
Add guavas, apples, pears, sugar cane, prunes, orange slices, and piloncillo.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.
Ladle into cups, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit.
Brandy or tequila can be added, making it ponche con piquete (punch with a sting). If you’re in my house over the holidays, my Ponche will sting like a bee, but make you float like a butterfly – that’s a promise!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Ponche Navideño be made ahead of time?
Absolutely! The longer this drink sits, the better the flavors meld. Make this ponche a day or two before and refrigerate it in a large glass jar.
On the day you want to serve, put the drink in a slow cooker and set it on low about 45 minutes before guests arrive, and the drink should be ready to serve as your party gets started.
Do I have to use fresh sugarcane?
The sugarcane really adds a lovely sweetness to this punch that is not cloying. Plus, the fresh sugarcane is a delicious garnish. If you are unable to find fresh sugarcane at your local store, you can purchase a jar containing some of the unique ingredients like tejocotes, guavas, and sugarcane: Ponche Navideño en Almibar (Fruit Punch in Syrup).
I can’t find tamarind pods
Where can I find the unique ingredients for this ponche recipe?
While the ingredients for my ponche navideño recipe are not likely to be on your regular supermarket shelves, it is very likely that you’ll be able to find them all at your local Latin market or International market.
Amazon is also a great resource for some of the unique ingredients.
- tejocotes, guavas, and sugarcane: Ponche Navideño en Almibar (Fruit Punch in Syrup)
- tamarindo pods or hibiscus flowers
Need more holiday drink inspiration?
Check out these other delicious warm recipes:
- Champurrado (Chocolate Atole)
- Mexican Hot Chocolate
- Peppermint Mexican Hot Chocolate
- Hibiscus-Cinnamon Tea
- Easy Spiced Mulled Wine
If you made this Ponche Navideño, please rate and review it below so I know how it turned out for you! I’m curious to know what you and your guests made of it.
Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)
- 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
- 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.
- Remove the tejocotes from the heat, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.
- Add guavas, apples, pears, sugar cane, prunes, orange slices, and piloncillo.
- Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.
- Ladle into cups, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit.
- Add brandy or tequila to each cup (optional).
- If you are unable to find fresh sugarcane at your local store you can even purchase a jar containing some of unique ingredients like tejocotes, guavas, and sugarcane: Ponche Navideño en Almibar (Fruit Punch in Syrup).
- Tamarindo pods can be purchased online, if you are unable to find them locally at a store. Or, you can replace with a handful of hibiscus flowers to give the punch a beautiful crimson color.
- If you are unable to find tejocotes, add one extra apple.
Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: December 2011. This recipe is also published in Latin Twist.