Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideño) is a warm, deliciously fruity, naturally sweetened punch perfect for cold weather and especially the holidays!
Mexican Christmas Punch, also known as Ponche Navideño is similar to hot apple cider or wassail in its final form.
However, instead of starting with juice, Ponche starts with lots of fresh fruit, spices, and pure sugar cane. Simmer it low and slow for natural sweetness and love in a cup that you’ll want to drink all year long.
Ponche requires a few seasonal, somewhat exotic ingredients. At least, they seem exotic until you are start looking for them. Then, suddenly you see them everywhere!
While I was able to locate all the ingredients at my local Mexican supermarket, I had help from Melissa’s Produce. Melissa’s kindly sent me everything I needed to make Ponche Navideño. I’m so grateful! They can definitely help you too.
Tejocotes (Hawthorne Apples)
Tejocotes are crucial to your Ponche. They have a unique flavor and texture that cannot be duplicated by any other fruit.
Guava fruit is sweet and tropical and comes in different sizes. For example, the ones I got from Melissa’s were twice the size or more of everything I saw at the local grocery stores. However, the size doesn’t matter; you just need a pound for this recipe as written.
There is a good chance the guavas will be green when you buy them. If so, you’ll need to let them a ripen for a few days, like a banana. To speed this up, place the guavas in a paper bag and close it tightly (this works for bananas too).
The color of ripened guavas varies from yellow to green, but you’ll know the guavas are ripe when they smell sweet. Guavas in their prime will be pink the middle.
Sugar Cane (Caña de Azucar)
Mexican Christmas Punch is sweetened first with raw sugar cane. Melissa’s sells sticks of sugar cane freshly cut from the field, and the sticks keep almost indefinitely.
At your local Mexican supermarket, you may be able to find peeled sugar cane in a refrigerated case in the produce section. Because the stalks of sugar cane are hard to cut in half, peeled cane is much easier to work with.
Cut the peeled cane in to matchsticks and add to your Ponche for a delicious rustic sweetness. And if you’ve never tried them, chew on one! You’ll love it (just don’t swallow the pulp).
Tamarind Fruit (Tamarindo)
Fresh tamarind pods have a beige pod and a dark brown, sticky fruit inside. The texture is similar to dates or other dried fruits. There are two kinds of tamarind: Sweet and sour. For this dish, you want the sour kind (the sweet is very common in Asian recipes).
Flor de Jamaica (dried Hibiscus flowers)
Dried Hibiscus flowers are the main ingredient Agua de Jamaica, also known as Hibiscus Tea. In Ponche Navideño, the dried flowers add pungent flavors and a beautiful red hue.
How to Make Mexican Christmas Punch
Simmer the cinnamon, sugar cane, tamarind, and hibiscus flowers first. If you prefer a darker brown color for your Ponche, add more cinnamon sticks or just simmer them longer. The punch will continue to darken.
Then, stir in all the fresh fruit and simmer 1 1/2 hours longer. Taste the Ponche for sweetness at this point. I like 1 cup of sugar for 8 cups of punch, but you can use less or add more to taste.
Also, traditionally the fruit is left in the punch for serving. When you finish drinking your punch, you eat the fruit which is tender and delicious. However, if you want to stain the cooked fruit and spices out, and add fresh fruit for garnish at the end, that’s okay with me!
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Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideño)
- 20 cups (1 1/4 gallons) water
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 5 ounces sugar cane peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 5 ounces tamarind peeled
- 5 dried hibiscus flowers (flor de jamaica)
- 1 orange peeled and cut into quarters
- 2 pounds apples unpeeled, cored, and sliced
- 1 pound guava fruit (guayabas)
- 10 tejocotes (hawthorne apples) sliced
- 1 cup sugar
- Fresh fruit for garnish
- Tequila to taste, optional (but highly recommended)
- In a large stock pot, bring water, cinnamon, sugar cane, tamarind, and hibiscus flowers to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the water turns dark brown, about 10 minutes (depending on your cinnamon sticks, the Ponche may be a pinkish color).
- Add oranges, apples, guava, and tejocotes and continue simmering 1 1/2 hours longer. Strain. Add sugar to taste (Ilike 1 cup.) Garnish with fresh fruit and serve. (Spike with tequila if you want to!)
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