It wouldn’t be Christmas at the ranch without my sister in law’s ponche, a ruby red Latin American punch. I was addicted when I had my first sip over 30 years ago (Tarnation… has it been that long?) Full of plump seasonal fruits, and dark, woody spices, it has now become my favorite Christmas sip. In fact, I have a simmering saucepan of ponche on the stove right now.
Ponche Navideña is Traditional and Delicious!
Mulled wine and spiced cider are the Christmas beverage of choice in the European tradition, but Ponche Navideña is enjoyed in most Spanish speaking countries. There are versions that feature dried ingredients from the pantry, such as raisins, hibiscus tea and cinnamon, and versions that have tropical ingredients, such as guava and pomegranate. This recipe for Ponche Navideña has a little of both.
In the ingredient list, I have inlcuded the fruits that we traditionally use in our region, but it is easy to see that not all of these fruits are available in December in every supermarket. The most essential part of the punch is the hibiscus tea base, the cloves, star anise and cinnamon.
Substitute apples, pears or pineapple in equal amounts for any of the fruits listed in the Ponche Navideña recipe that you cannot find. I prefer the rustic flavor of raw loaf sugar, known as piloncillo in Mexico (known by other names throughout Latin America) but you can certainly use granulated sugar too. Also, be careful when peeling the sugar cane!
Ponche Navideña is Best when Shared!
We usually serve this in the evening, while chatting with family. With a spoon in each mug as we nibble on bites of stewed guavas and tangerines, we talk about old times, and what we plan for the New Year. The company, the hot mug of Ponche Navideña and the season…all are delicious, and savored.Print
Ponche Navideña (Christmas Punch)
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 10
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 8–12 servings 1x
- Category: Beverage
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Latin American
2 qts water (2 lt)
1.5 oz cup jamiaca or dried hibiscus flowers (42 g)
5 whole cloves
2–3 pieces star anise
1 stick whole cinnamon
8 oz. piloncillo (substitute brown or granulated sugar- 250 g)
4 oz. tejocote* (125 g)
4 oz. fresh guava, sliced in quarters (125 g)
1 tangerine, peeled and divided into sections
2–3 tamarind pods, peeled with veins removed
3 oz. pomegranate seeds (87g)
10” section fresh sugar cane, peeled and cut into short sticks
1 oz. raisins (30 g)
2 oz. prunes (60 g)
Pour the water into a 4 qt. (4 lt) stock pot and add the jamaica (dried hibiscus flowers.) Place the whole clovesand star anise in a tea ball and add to the pot along with the whole cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain and remove the hibiscus flowers, the tea ball and whole cinnamon. Return the tea to the pot, but discard the spent flowers, cinnamon, anise and cloves.
Add the piloncillo (or sugar) and stir until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, and briefly return to the heat, until the punch reaches the boiling point. Remove from the heat but serve warm.
*The scientific name for tejocote is Crataegus mexicana which is also known as Mexican hawthorn. They taste a bit like apples or green pear, which can also easily work as a substitute.