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Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideño)

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Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideño) is a warm, deliciously fruity, naturally sweetened punch perfect for cold weather. It has a few special ingredients, but they are always available at Mexican grocery stores around the holidays, and those who know accept no substitutes.

A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.


 

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! And always in Mexican supermarkets.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Mexican Christmas punch.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Sugar cane: Fresh sugar cane (light green in color) is ideal if you can find it. It’s soft enough to peel and chop with a standard chef’s knife. Avoid any dried brown sugar cane in shrink-wrapped packages. You may be able to find peeled sugar cane in a refrigerated case in the produce section at your local Mexican market. 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).
A small stalk of sugar cane and piles of the cane peeled and cut into planks.
  • Tamarind: 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). Fresh tamarind is available at some well-stocked Mexican supermarkets or on Amazon.
Tamarind in the shell next to some peeled pieces.
  • Hibiscus flowers: Dried Hibiscus flowers are the main ingredient Agua de Jamaica, also known as Hibiscus Tea. Flor de Jamaica is in Mexican supermarkets or on Amazon.
A pot of hibiscus flowers.
  • Guavas: Guavas (guayabas) are a sweet, tropical fruit that comes in different sizes. There is a good chance the guavas will be green when you buy them. If possible, 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 ripening 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.
Guavas, both whole and halved.
  • Tejocotoes: Also known as Hawthorne Apples, tejocotes are small (slightly larger than a quarter) and crucial to your Ponche. They have a unique flavor and texture that cannot be duplicated by any other fruit. Tejocotes are in season from October to December. In a pinch, you can find them in jars.
Tejocotes (Hawthorne apples), but whole and halved.
  • Tequila: “Ponche con Piquete” or spiking ponche with tequila is extremely popular in Mexico.
A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. 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.
A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.
  1. Add oranges, apples, guavas, and tejocotes.
A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.
  1. Continue simmering 1 ½ hours longer.
A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.
  1. Strain if desired (traditionally the drink is not strained) and add sugar to taste (I like 1 cup.) Garnish with fresh fruit and serve.
A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes at least 16 cups of ponche; the true yield depends on the size of your fruit and how much sweetener you add.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The flavor of ponche improves over time as the flavors have time to meld. For the best flavor, make it a day in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Then, reheat it on the stove or in a crockpot so guests can help themselves.
A simmering pot of Mexican Christmas Punch.

Recipe FAQs

How would you describe ponche?

Ponche is a warm, sweet, fruity beverage similar to a cider. It tastes a little bit like apples, oranges, and cinnamon with other flavors that you might not be able to pinpoint, if you’re not familiar with them.

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Mexican Christmas punch on a serving tray surrounded by fruits.

Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideño)

Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideño) is a warm, deliciously fruity, naturally sweetened punch perfect for cold weather.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 16 servings (1 cup each)
Course Drinks
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 216
5 from 4 votes

Ingredients 

  • 20 cups (1 ¼ gallons) water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 ounces sugar cane peeled and cut into matchsticks (see note 1)
  • 5 ounces tamarind peeled (see note 2)
  • 5 dried hibiscus flowers (flor de jamaica, see note 3)
  • 1 orange peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 pounds apples unpeeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 pound guava fruit (guayabas, see note 4)
  • 10 tejocotes sliced (Hawthorne apples, see note 5)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Fresh fruit for garnish
  • Tequila to taste, optional (see note 6)

Instructions 

  • 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, guavas, and tejocotes and continue simmering 1 ½ hours longer. Strain if desired (traditionally the drink is not strained) and add sugar to taste (I like 1 cup.) Garnish with fresh fruit and serve.

Notes

  1. Sugar cane: Fresh sugar cane (light green in color) is ideal if you can find it. It’s soft enough to peel and chop with a standard chef’s knife. Avoid any dried brown sugar cane in shrink-wrapped packages. You may be able to find peeled sugar cane in a refrigerated case in the produce section at your local Mexican market. 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).
  2. Tamarind: 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). Fresh tamarind is available at some well-stocked Mexican supermarkets or on Amazon.
  3. Hibiscus flowers: Dried Hibiscus flowers are the main ingredient Agua de Jamaica, also known as Hibiscus Tea. Flor de Jamaica is in Mexican supermarkets or on Amazon.
  4. Guavas: Guavas (guayabas) are a sweet, tropical fruit that comes in different sizes. There is a good chance the guavas will be green when you buy them. If possible, 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 ripening 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.
  5. Tejocotes: Also known as Hawthorne Apples, tejocotes are small (slightly larger than a quarter) and crucial to your Ponche. They have a unique flavor and texture that cannot be duplicated by any other fruit. Tejocotes are in season from October to December. In a pinch, you can find them in jars.
  6. Tequila: “Ponche con Piquete” or spiking ponche with tequila is extremely popular in Mexico.
  7. Yield: This recipe makes at least 16 cups of Ponche; the true yield depends on the size of your fruit and how much sweetener you add.
  8. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  9. Make ahead: The flavor of ponche improves over time as the flavors have time to meld. For the best flavor, make it a day in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Then, reheat it on the stove or in a crockpot so guests can help themselves.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 216kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 20mgPotassium: 373mgFiber: 7gSugar: 46gVitamin A: 292IUVitamin C: 77mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

    1. YES, that is actually how you are supposed to spike it. As I’m sure you know. Thank you for the reminder to add that to the recipe. “Tequila, to taste.” :)