Like all great societies of cultivated peoples Mexico is no stranger to the hot toddy. There’s champurrado, atole, and of course hot chocolate but come Christmas there is one warm drink that tops them all—ponche.
Ponche is a delicious concoction made with fresh and dried fruit, sugarcane, and cinnamon. The markets in Mexico are loaded up this time of year with piles of guavas, oranges, apples, and tejocotes, a traditional fruit grown in Mexico that tastes something like an apple mixed with a pear and is essential to authentic ponche. This drink along with buñuelos, sweet tamales, and steaming bowls of pozole are all Mexican Christmas favorites that are commonly eaten during Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration building up to Christmas.
This ponche is Mexican in it’s heart, but not exactly authentic. There is no way I was going to find tejocotes here so I used Bosc pears instead and fresh sugarcane is also a tad bit hard to come by so I used canned, but the rich fruity spirit is still there and I did manage to source some guavas so not all is lost.
I love making huge batches of this drink for holiday parties because it is loved by children and, with a tipple of bourbon, adults too. Add some of the plump, cinnamon-infused fruit to each cup and garnish with a stick of sugarcane. Brandy is pretty traditional, but we tend to finish off a bottle of Maker’s Mark pretty quickly when we have some ponche around. You can also use dark rum or añejo tequila too.
The ponche will get thickened by the fruit as it cooks, add additional water as needed.
Recipe inspired by The Mija Chronicles
- 1 (12-ounce) can sugarcane, drained
- 16 cups (1 gallon) water
- 7 small cones piloncillo (7 ounces) or dark brown sugar
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 3 guavas, peeled and chopped
- 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 pear, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 cup dried hibiscus (jamaica) flowers
- 1 cup raisins
- Bourbon, Rum, or Dark Anejo Tequila, for serving
- Reserve 1 piece of sugarcane for garnish and slice the remaining into thick coins.
- Place all ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for at least 1 hour.
- Cut the reserved sugarcane into long matchsticks. Serve the punch warm with 2 ounces of liquor in each cup and a piece of sugarcane, if desired.