Traditional Mexican Ponche


Courtesy of Lucinda Hutson

Serve ponche from mugs and spike with your favorite tequila or mezcal—or a splash of both! (Brandy and rum are other options.)

Notes: Mexicans usually drop tejocotes whole into the punch and spit out the seeds. Substitute other tart fruits like crab apples when tejocotes aren’t available. If you are lucky, you’ll find sugarcane already cut into sections. You’ll also find canned sugarcane segments and lemongrass in Asian markets, as well as tamarind—the tart, sticky pulp which adds rich flavor and color to the punch. Or how about some nontraditional ingredients? Add fresh or dried cranberries, dried cherries or apricots or kumquats. Sometimes I’ll add some crushed dried red cayenne or fresh habaneros to liven it up!


Traditional Mexican Ponche


For 15 Person(s)


  • 1 sugarcane stalk about 3 ft. long, cut into segments
  • 12 cups water
  • 2 8-oz. cones of piloncillo, or 1 lb. brown sugar
  • 6 3-in. sticks Mexican canela (cinnamon)
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons anise seeds
  • 4 fresh allspice or bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 Split vanilla pod or splash of Mexican vanilla (optional)
  • 6 stalks lemongrass, rough outer leaves removed and discarded, cut into 3-in. pieces and slightly mashed (optional)
  • 10 large tamarind pods, brittle shell peeled away and fibrous veins removed and discarded
  • 1/2 pounds tejocotes (see notes)
  • 2 crisp red apples, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 membrillos (quinces) or 2 crisp Asian pears, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 pounds guayabas (guavas) or assorted dried fruits (see notes)
  • 1 cups golden raisins
  • 12 plump prunes
  • 3/4 cups dried jamaica flowers (tropical hibiscus)
  • 8 cups fruit nectar (such as guava, tamarind or unfiltered apple juice)
  • 3 oranges, sliced
  • Agave syrup, to taste
  • 1 bottle or more tequila reposado or añejo and/or mezcal

Traditional Mexican Ponche Directions

  1. With a sharp knife, trim away the tough peel of the sugarcane segments. Cut each segment into pieces about the size of celery sticks, yielding about 25 pieces total, and set aside. (See notes.)
  2. Bring the water to boil in a large stockpot. Add the piloncillo, cinnamon sticks and spices and lower the heat slightly. Stir occasionally until the piloncillo has melted—about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the sugarcane, lemongrass, tamarind, tejocote and remaining fresh or dried fruits and flowers (except the oranges) and 1½ quarts of the fruit nectar. Simmer for about 1 hour, until aromatic and slightly thickened—adding the oranges toward the end of cooking. Add more nectar or water as needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and, preferably, let ponche sit, covered, for several hours (or overnight). Reheat at a gentle simmer then ladle, piping hot, into mugs, along with some of the fruit and a piece of sugarcane. Let guests add agave syrup, tequila or mezcal to taste.

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