Last Updated on December 25, 2020 by Chef Mireille
Mexican Ponche Navideno is a warm fruit and spice drink that is especially made during the holidays in Mexico from Christmas to Three King’s Day.
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Translated literally, Ponche Navideno is Christmas Punch, but it is enjoyed during the entire holiday season through to the Epiphany, also known as Three King’s Day.
Three King’s Day
Many Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate Three King’s Day. Although it is a holiday recognized by all Christians, Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate it the most. Catholics, especially in Latin countries, celebrate it with great fanfare. Everywhere from Spain & Portugal to South & Central America.
The Orthodox Christians of Eastern Europe celebrate it a week later as they follow a different calendar. Their Christmas is also a week later.
Three King’s Day celebrate when the 3 wise men brought gifts to the newly born baby Jesus and Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. There are many rich and sweet foods eaten during the Epiphany season as it is seen as a time of celebrating until Lent fasting starts. \
After the Epiphany is when the famous King’s Cake of New Orleans starts appearing at bakeries there until Lent.
The Epiphany will occur this year on Sunday upcoming – January 6th. This week I will be highlighting some recipes that are included in Epiphany celebrations in Mexico. I have already showed you how to make Pozole, a soup commonly eaten during Epiphany celebrations. Now you will learn some more recipes to celebrate the holiday!
Ponche is one of the beverages that Mexicans celebrate the holidays with – from Christmas to New Year’s to the Epiphany. There is some variety from region to region in Mexico, depending on the abundance of local fruits. Some regions use more citrus fruits, while other regions use more stone fruits.
Living in a very diverse neighborhood, just going to my local supermarket I was able to find all of the ingredients used in my version of Ponche. However, depending where you live, you might have to go to specialty markets or online sources.
You can also take the main concept of ponche and adapt it with fruits locally available. However, certain ingredients like the hibiscus (sorrel, flor de Jamaica) and tamarind are generally always included, so you want to include those.
Let’s go over the ingredients and where to look for some of the specialty ingredients used! As some of the ingredients are not available fresh at your local US supermarket, many of the ingredients are instead found in the frozen or canned section of the market. Of course, fresh is best and if not, it is not a reason to avoid making this delicious ponche.
- Tejocote is a type of Mexican hawthorn. I used the version canned, in syrup. First, look in the frozen section of the market. If frozen or fresh is not available, the canned version is the best substitute.
- Mexican Yellow Cherry I was able to purchase frozen. If you cannot locate these, just use regular cherries.
- Fresh Tamarind is sweet and not sour like the tamarind concentrate you may use for Thai cooking. Look in the produce section of your market. The red box is usually sweet and the green box is the sour one. Make sure to get the red box! To peel the tamarind, simply crack the shell and remove it. Then remove the tamarind hair layer.
- Fresh Guava is pretty common and easy to find here in NYC. If it is not available where you live, you can add a little guava nectar so you can at least get the flavor if the fruit is not available.
- Piloncillo/Panela is a raw natural sugar. Jaggery, found in Indian markets, can be substituted. If neither of these is available, you can use brown sugar. They are sold in very hard discs. Just use the whole disc as it will melt in the simmering liquid.
- Dried Hibiscus, also known as sorrel, flor de Jamaica or roselle can be found in tea shops if you are unable to source it at your local market. Caribbeans use this a lot so you will be able to find it at fruit/vegetable markets in Caribbean neighborhoods if you have one near you.
- Sugarcane – During the summer, I can usually get fresh sugarcane here in NYC, however, it is harder in the winter. I utilized canned sugarcane, however if you have the fresh available, that is better to use.
As long as you live in a large city with large Latin or Caribbean markets, most of these ingredients should be available to you.
If you cannot find these ingredients, some others you might like to add as substitutes include cranberries, quince and gooseberries.
Although I did not use in this version, sometimes dried fruits such as prunes or raisins are added.
All the other ingredients are readily available and you should have no problems finding.
Have you tried instacart yet? It’s how I get all of my fresh grocery items delivered within 2 hours!
How to make Ponche Navideno
Boil everything together!
Make sure you serve each mug with a sugarcane stick to use as a stirrer.
Such a warm and comforting drink. Perfect on cold winter evenings, even if you are not celebrating Three King’s Day.
Mexican Ponche – Ponche Navideno
- 2 chopped and cored apples
- 1 cup yellow cherries
- 12 oz. quartered guavas approximately 8
- 10 oz. tejocote approximately 15
- 1 large orange halved and sliced
- 2 tablespoons dried hibiscus
- 7 sweet tamarind pods peeled
- 2 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 3 cloves
- 8 oz. piloncillo/panella cone
- rum or brandy optional
- Combine all ingredients (except rum/brandy if using) in a large pot with 16 cups water. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
- Make sure the piloncillo is completely dissolved.
- Stir to combine.
- Serve warm with both liquid and fruits.
- If desired, serve with a little rum or brandy added to it.
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What a lovely burst of flavours ! The Ponche sounds rather interesting , though has quite a long list of ingredients .
Sure the warm drink shall be very festive !
yes but you can use any variety of fruit you have available
Very interesting ingredients and I like how you have taken the time to describe each one of them.
yes despite the unique ingredients it can be customized to what you have locally available
Mir, Wishing you a very Happy New Year! That is such a beautiful tropical drink and love the ingredients in it. That sweet tamarind is reminding me of my childhood days where we used to pick sweet tamarind from trees all day long.
I did not grow up somewhere where I could pick it off the tree but I have always enjoyed snacking on sweet tamarind, purchased from the store 🙂
Mexican ponche looks absolutely an incredible drink to keep ourself warm. Sounds too fruity and flavourful. I can drink this ponche without any fuss.
I am sure you would love it!
That is an awesome drink full of flavours. Though I don’t get 90% of these ingredients here, I love to have this as a visual treat for the New Year!
like I mentioned you can also adapt it with locally available fruit
Wow! So many new and unique ingredients, Mir. The beverage sounds so exotic. As Sandhya mentioned, I remember we used to pluck fresh tamarind off the trees in my maternal grandma’s farm in our childhood 🙂
tamarind is great and adds such delicious flavor in it
Wow flavor loaded drink… Between interesting that you can’t find sugarcane now. In bay, we get sugarcane during winter and we always use it during the Sankranti festival. But I am not sure where they source from.
yes – there is one market I know of but it is a bit of a trek to get to that I have seen sugarcane there in winter. It was too cold to go all that way for a maybe that they might have it. Regardless, the canned sugarcane worked just as well 🙂
That is such a comforting warm drink for the chilly weather – sounds so flavorful with all the yummy and authentic Mexican ingredients in there.
thanks – yes I am lucky living in NYC to have access to so many ingedients
Oh gosh, that’s a fantastic combination of ingredients and I can imagine the drink bursting with different flavours. Thanks for all those details on the festival, it was so interesting to read! Wonderful start for the new year Mir!
definitely and what is so great is that it can be customized to whatever fruit you have locally available
What an interesting drink bursting with flavours!! Loved the detailed post on the festivals and ingredients..
Thank you Swati
We get 80% of the ingredients here. Love the sweet tamarind pods. Like Sandhya mentioned loved to eat those from the trees!This drink sounds so warming on a cold wintry evening! As always your posts are so full of information and I learnt quite a lot today.
then you can definitely make it as the fruits can be customized to what you have locally available!
wow that drink seems to be bursting with flavours and a lovely write up Mir
What a lovely drink with fruits and spices. In Brazil we make wine this way.
so many countries have some kind of fruit and spice drinks during the holidays. Will have to try the Brazilian version next.
I love reading your posts Mireille. They are so informative and being intrested in different customs and cultures my weaknesses I do love it.
3 kings festival is celebrated in Goa too especially in causalim.
I am sure if Look around I may find the ingredients. The drink sounds delicious will try n customize it.
it is so adaptable with which fruits are locally available to you. Definitely try it out for the holiday season this year!
Such an amazing drink bursting with flavors mir! I always love to read your post, lot to learn. The pic with all the fruits & liquid with the sugar cane stick, looks very inviting ❤️
it is full of so much flavor. I am sure you would love it
That’s a totally different kind of punch. Looks very comforting and delicious. Interesting read on when Mexican Ponche is prepared and also what goes into it.
glad you found it informative
Interesting drink, loved this Ponche and the detailed post too. Good to see the use of guava here.