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A Short History of Punch, 5 Recipes to Try

Published on:

September 9, 2020

There’s a punch for every occasion; in fact, you might even call it “the casserole of the beverage world.”

The punch category is understood vaguely as a type of beverage, either non-alcoholic and alcoholic, that generally contains fruit or fruit juice — but did you know that the famous concoction actually owes its origins to India?

Well, if you’ve ever heard the phrase “drink like a sailor,” then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sailors working for the British East India Company drank a lot of beer — 10 pints each per day! But by the time they reached the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean, the beer left in the cargo bays had spoiled. Once docked in India they needed more alcohol and learned to make punch from the locals there.

In fact, the word “punch” is thought to derive from the Hindi word for “five,” as the original drink was frequently made with just five ingredients: alcohol (usually rum, brandy, or arack), sugar, juice (from either a lime or a lemon), water, and spices (like nutmeg). Others believe the word originates from the English “puncheon,” which was a volumetric description for certain sized barrels used to transport alcohol on ships.

juice in fancy glass

Regardless of who deserves credit for the word “punch,” we can thank India for the recipe, which also happened to protect the sailors from getting scurvy on the voyage back. Once home, the sailors shared the recipe and soon punch became a staple that spread across the continent and the New World. Eventually, new twists and non-alcoholic versions appeared to allow women and children to enjoy the drink, too.

By the mid-1800s, punch is said to have fallen largely out of fashion; but in the last two centuries, it’s seen a resurgence. Modern commercial punch brands include Hawaiian Punch (owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group), Minute Maid (owned by The Coca-Cola Company), and Kool Aid (owned by Kraft Heinz).

Though everyone’s grandma happens to claim her recipe is the best, there are endless ways to make this delightful party drink. If you want to try your hand at making your own, here’s 5 versions to get you inspired:

Classic Punch

When people think of a classic “fruit punch,” usually what comes to mind is a giant bowl of sweet, bright red liquid — the kind that comes out of those big jugs of our beloved childhood Hawaiian Punch. But if you’re going for a truly traditional take, drink historian David Wondrich provides a recipe taken straight out of history:

classic punch in mason jar

The first step is making an oleo-saccharum — a sugar-oil mixture created by coating citrus or another oil-rich fruit rind in an excess of sugar. To do this, peel four un-waxed lemons and place them in a container, covered with just over 1/3 cup of caster sugar. Seal, shake, and let it sit overnight.

When you’re ready to serve your punch, combine a generous 1/3 cup of lemon juice to your oleo-saccharum. Seal the jar and shake again until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture (including the peels) into a punch bowl. Then add about 2 to 3 cups of rum into the bowl (or to your preference), along with just over 4 cups of cold water. Throw in ice and top with one-third of a grated, whole nutmeg — then enjoy!

Summer Sherbet Punch

Summer’s not over yet. If you can squeeze in another barbecue before the season’s end, then this kid-friendly punch is sure to be a hit — and did we mention the recipe calls for sherbet ice cream?

The key to mastering this delightful drink recipe is pre-freezing your favorite flavor of sherbet into balls before adding it to the punch. This not only prevents it from melting too quickly, but also ensures evenly proportioned scoops of ice cream for each cup!

sherbert ice cream scoop

One tip suggests covering a muffin tin with plastic wrap or wax paper, then scooping the sherbet into each hole to freeze. When it’s time for the party, you can drop the frozen sherbet balls into the punch.

To make the punch itself, combine one (12oz) can each of pineapple juice and either fruit punch or pink lemonade. Pour in a 2-liter bottle of chilled club soda with your preference of another two liters of Sierra Mist, Sprite, 7-Up, Ginger Ale, or the like. Gently stir. Finally, top your punch with the sherbet balls, and if you’re feeling particularly guilty about all the sugar, throw in some fresh fruit. Yum!

3-Ingredient Watermelon Punch

Looking for something simpler (and a little lighter on the sugar)? Try this three-ingredient Watermelon Punch.

All you need is a seedless watermelon (around 10 pounds), 2 cups of unsweetened pineapple juice, and one (12oz) can of frozen lemonade concentrate. Cutting up the watermelon is going to be the most labor intensive part. Just scoop the flesh into a blender and process until smooth. If you’re not a fan of pulp, you can strain it.

watermelon punch with mint

Next, add the pineapple juice and lemonade concentrate, and blend well. Transfer to a punch bowl with ice — or use the rind from your watermelon! If you’re looking for something sweeter, you can add simple syrup to taste. There you have it! A refreshing punch (with half the guilt).

Mocha Coffee Punch

Since this recipe has coffee in it, we can make it for breakfast, right? Next time you’re hosting brunch or a late-night event requiring a pick-me-up, try out this deliciously caffeinated Mocha Coffee Punch.

mocha coffee

Start by brewing 6 cups of your favorite coffee. Once the brew has chilled, set aside. In a punch bowl, combine 6 cups of whole milk (or a milk of your preference), along with 1 cup of chocolate syrup to make chocolate milk. Stir in the coffee.

When you’re ready to serve, add in generous scoops of coffee and vanilla ice cream for a creamy, coffee-flavored masterpiece. Dress it up with whipped cream and chocolate powder. Breakfast will never be the same!

Rose Sangria Punch

One of the most popular takes on an adult fruit punch is sangria. And just like punch, it’s easy to make and versatile in flavor.

For this recipe for a Rose Sangria Punch, start with a base made with one (750ml) bottle of dry rose wine, one-fourth cup of brandy, and two tablespoons each of raspberry liqueur and sugar. Next, add 1.5 cups each of raspberries and quartered strawberries, plus a sliced lemon. Refrigerate for at least an hour (and up to a day), then add 1.5 cups of seltzer before serving.

The result is a lighter, bubbly take on a traditional sangria that your guests will be sure to find both boozy and delicious. Cheers!

strawberry punch in carafe

Because there’s no official style for punch, there’s sure to be a recipe out there you’ll enjoy — maybe one that hasn’t even been created yet! If you have a recipe you want to share with the world, Flavorman can help you bring it to life.

Get started on your commercial beverage idea by filling out this form or giving us a call at (502) 273-5214.

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