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The term punch refers to a wide assortment of drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, generally containing fruit or fruit juice.[1][2] The drink was introduced from India to the United Kingdom in the early seventeenth century, and from there its use spread to other countries.[3] Punch is usually served at parties in large, wide bowls, known as punch bowls.

Southern Bourbon Punch.jpg
Southern Bourbon punch
TypeMixed drink
Standard drinkwareOften served in a punch bowl with punch glasses.
Commonly used ingredientsUsually fruit juices and other drink mixers, optionally with alcohol.
PreparationVaries widely. Many prepared mixes are available.

In the U.S., federal regulations provide the word "punch" to describe commercial beverage products that do not contain fruit or fruit juice. The term is used to label artificially flavored beverages, with or without natural flavorings, which do not contain fruit juice or concentrate in significant proportions.[4] Thus a product labeled as "fruit punch" may contain no fruit ingredients at all.



The word punch may be a loanword from Sanskrit पञ्च (pañca), meaning "five", as the drink was frequently made with five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices.[5][6] Some believe the word originates from the English puncheon, which was a volumetric description for certain sized barrels used to transport alcohol on ships.[7]

The drink was brought to England from India by sailors and employees of the British East India Company in the early 17th century. From there it was introduced into other European countries. When served communally, the drink is expected to be of a lower alcohol content than a typical cocktail.[3][8]

The term punch was first recorded in British documents in 1632. At the time, most punches were of the wassail type made with a wine or brandy base. But around 1655, Jamaican rum came into use, and the "modern" punch emerged. By 1671, documents make references to punch houses.[citation needed]



Fruit punch

Non-alcoholic varieties, which are especially given to children as well as adults who do not drink alcohol, typically include a mix of some fruit drink such as juice, water, and a sweetener like sugar. It may also contain chunks of actual fruit. The non-alcoholic versions are typically served at highschool dances, churches, and other similar social occasions.

Commercial manufacturers distribute many types of "fruit punch" beverages. These are usually red-colored drinks. Despite the name, most brands contain only a small fraction of actual fruit juice, the major constituents being sugar or corn syrup, citric acid, and artificial flavors. They are used either as soft drinks or nonalcoholic cocktail mixers. Hawaiian Punch and Hi-C are two of the better known brands in the US. Other related drinks include Kool-Aid powdered drink mix, fassionola, and Tiki Punch (a carbonated soft drink from Shasta).


Historically, most spirit based early alcoholic punches were made using either arrack or rum.[9][10][11] Bajan (Barbadian) rum punch is one of the oldest rum punches and has a simple recipe enshrined in a national rhyme: "One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong, Four of Weak." That is: one part lime juice, two parts sweetener, three parts rum (preferably Barbados), and four parts water. It is served with a dash or two of Angostura bitters and nutmeg.

There are many rum-based punches, including Planter's Punch, Fish House Punch, Caribbean Rum Punch, and others. Arrack based punches were included in Jacob Grohusko's 1910 and Charles Mahoney's 1912 bartenders guides,[12][13] and an early recipe for arrack punch was written by Pehr Osbeck, Olof Torén, and Carl Gustaf Ekeberg in their 1771 book, A Voyage to China and the East Indies:

It is known to almost every one how punch is made; but, that it may be observed for the future where it is made to its greatest perfection, I will mention the true proportion of its constituent parts. To a quart of boiling water, half a pint of arrack is taken, to which one pound of sugar, and five or six lemons, or instead of them as many tamarinds as are necessary to give it the true acidity, are added: a nutmeg is likewise grated into it. The punch, which is made for the men in our ship was heated with red hot iron balls which were thrown into it. Those who can afford it, make punch a usual drink after dinner. While we stayed in China, we drunk it at dinner instead of wine which the company allowed the first table.[14]

Alchoholic punches are common among parties for college and university students. These punches tend to be highly alcoholic and made with cheap ingredients. They may be referred to by names such as "grain punch" (made with high-proof grain alcohol and sundry mixers) or "Jungle Juice" (liquor of various sorts brought to a BYOB party, mixed in a lined trash can with various carbonated beverages, kool-aid, or whatever is on hand). Some exclude additional water altogether and have 30% alcohol by volume (ABV) or more.[citation needed]

Punches around the worldEdit


Blow My Skull is a famous alcoholic punch drink that originated in mid-19th century Australia that contains rum, porter, lime, sugar, and other ingredients.


Bajan Punch is made with rum, lime juice, cane sugar, nutmeg, and bitters. Falernum liqueur is also frequently added[15][16], which was itself an early form of punch made by steeping cloves with rum, lime, and other ingredients.


Ti' Punch, literally meaning "small punch", is a rum-based punch that is especially popular in Martinique and other French speaking islands of Caribbean. The drink is traditionally made with white rhum agricole, lime, and cane syrup.


Cups is a style of punch, traditionally served before the departure of a hunting party in England, but now served at a variety of social events such as garden parties, cricket, tennis matches, and picnics, cups are generally lower in alcohol content than other punches and usually use wine, cider, sloe gin, or liqueurs as the base. They often include quantities of fruit juices or soft drinks. One well known cup is the Pimm's Cup, using Pimm's №1 and British-style lemonade at a ratio of 1:2; a squeeze of lemon; then add orange, lemon and apple slices; a couple of cucumber wedges; and decorate with borage flowers.


Punch bowl and stand, made at the Meissen factory, Germany, 1770, Victoria and Albert Museum

Punch (Punsch in German) refers to a mixture of several fruit juices and spices, often with wine or liquor added and mostly topped with champagne or sparkling wine. Punch is popular in Germany and with many Germans who emigrated to America. Parties on New Year's Eve ("Silvester") often include a Feuerzangenbowle ("Burnt Punch" or, literally, "Fire Tongs Bowl"). This is a punch made of red wine and flaming overproof rum (such as Stroh), poured over a Zuckerhut (sugarloaf), a large conical sugar cube placed in the "Feuerzange".[17] It's similar to mulled wine ("Glühwein"). Another warm punch, popular with hunters or others spending time in the cold is jagertee punch.

Indian SubcontinentEdit

Arrack based punches were historically popular in India and Sri Lanka, where it was distilled from toddy, the juice of the cocoanut tree.[18][19][20][21]


Hwachae, Sujeonggwa is a traditional punch made from dried persimmons, cinnamon, and ginger.


Ponche is served during the Christmas holiday season, and it is served warm. According to historians ponche came to Mexico from Persia, where they used to consume a very similar drink they called "panch," made with water, lemon, herbs, sugar and rum. This tradition migrated to Europe and acquired the name "punch," known in Spain as "ponche." Some ingredients used to make ponche are more seasonal and even exotic. Fresh tejocotes, known to the Aztecs as Texocotli (stone fruit) are de rigueur. Tejocotes are the fruit of the hawthorn tree, and resembles crab apples; they have a sweet-sour flavor and an orange to golden yellow color. Other ingredients in ponche are prunes, pears, dry hibiscus, star anise, and sugar cane pieces.[22]

Agua loca ("crazy water") is a very sweet punch usually made from fermented sugarcane, mezcal or tequila mixed with "aguas frescas" (usually agua de Jamaica or horchata). Due to its sweetness, the drinker may not taste the alcohol and become intoxicated more quickly than anticipated. This drink is popular on college campuses as an inexpensive means of becoming intoxicated.[citation needed]

South AmericaEdit

Punch is a mix between white wine and different kind of fruits, such as diced canned peaches.


"Punch" is typically called bål in Sweden, and is commonly served in a bowl at social functions (e.g. graduation or wedding receptions). Bål as thought of broadly should not to be confused with Swedish Punsch, which is a specific type of alcoholic punch using arrack that is considered the national drink of Sweden.[23] Due to its popularity the arrack punch saw commercial bottling in 1845, and became known more broadly outside Scandinavia as the liqueur Swedish punsch.

Dragoon punch was popular in Sweden and Norway in the early 1900's, and added both stout and beer to brandy, champagne, and sherry.[24]

United StatesEdit

Some claim Planter's Punch was invented at the bar of the Planters' House hotel in St. Louis, Missouri.[25] The recipe of Planter's Punch varies, containing some combination of rum, lemon juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, orange juice, grenadine, soda water, curaçao, Angostura bitters, and cayenne pepper.[26] The first known print reference to Planter's Punch was in the August 8, 1908 edition of The New York Times:

Gentlemen enjoying punch in about 1765, by William Hogarth

This recipe I give to thee,

Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —

I know whereof I speak.

Southern bourbon punch is a drink closely associated with Kentucky and other Southern states. Sweet bourbon punch is made with sweet tea (a signature drink of the South), citrus flavors and bourbon whiskey.[27] Bourbon is named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, and each year during the Kentucky Derby, recipes for bourbon punch abound.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Punch at
  2. ^ "Surprising history of punch". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b Edwards, Graham and Sue. The Language of Drink, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1988.
  4. ^ U.S. FDA. "A Food Labeling Guide" (PDF).
  5. ^ Loanwords
  6. ^ Punch at the Online Etymology Dictionary
  7. ^ "The History of Punch". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  8. ^ "A Vintage Cocktail That Packs A Punch", NPR, December 30, 2010, with 3 vintage recipes
  9. ^ "Parlour Room Punch". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  10. ^ "The History of Punch". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  11. ^ "How well do you know the history of punch recipes?". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  12. ^ Grohusko, Jacob (1910). Jack's Manual. NY: McClunn & Co. p. 66.
  13. ^ Mahoney, Charles (1912). Hoffman House Bartender's Guide. Franklin Square, NY: Richard Fox Publishing. p. 180.
  14. ^ "Lost Ingredients: Arrack". Mixology. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  15. ^ "". Bajan rum punch. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  16. ^ "Barbados, The Rum Island". Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Feuerzangenbowle – a Punch with a, well, Punch". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  18. ^ Thomas, Jerry (1862). Bartender's Guide. New York: Dic & Fitzgerald. p. 30.
  19. ^ "Vintage cocktail packs a punch". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Artisinal Arrack". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Arrack". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Punsch, A Gift from God (translated)". Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  24. ^ Vermier, Robert. Cocktails How to Mix Them (Second Printing ed.). Plymouth, England: Mayflower Printing. p. 79.
  25. ^ Van Ravenswaay, Charles (1991). Saint Louis: An Informal History of the City and Its People, 1764-1865. Missouri History Museum. ISBN 0-252-01915-6.
  26. ^ David Wondrich (2004). Esquire Drinks. Hearst Books. p. 192. ISBN 1-58816-205-2.
  27. ^ Sweet Bourbon Punch Recipe Archived August 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine