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Tracing The History Of The Classic English Christmas Punch

history of the English Christmas punch

If you are keen on celebrating a traditional Christmas, you have to add a classic punch recipe to your cocktail needs for the full effect. After all, Christmas festivities are incomplete without a good punch bowl and the traditional English Christmas punch is the perfect version to put together during the winter months. For the English punch has quite an interesting history — it can be traced back to the colonial period and the arrival of the East India Company (EIC) to Indian shores. 

There are many variations of the punch recipe, including a drink which has roots in Mexican cultures which travelled back to Europe via tradespeople who had business with distant American lands. The spices and aromas of Mexico made their way to the classic punch cocktail made in England characterised by the addition of fruits like apples, guavas, tejocotes and Jamaica flowers.

Punch, Or Paanch?

The classic English punch is made up of exactly five ingredients, its name reminiscent of a colonial past. English punch is said to derive its name from the Hindi word paanch or five, meaning a cocktail made with five items including rum, sugar, lemon or lime juice, water and spices.

In its early stages, punch was a wassail type beverage made using wine or brandy. However, the arrival of Jamaican rum quickly substituted the former to make a punch which resembled the drink of the eastern shores.

Punch quickly became popular among the tradesman of the EIC and travelled to Europe where it was infused with spices and flavours used widely during Christmas. So, in many a punch bowl, one might find strong flavours of tea, apples, cinnamon and even eggs added to the cocktail to make it more festive.

A classic English punch is one of the best mixes to have at a Christmas party at home. The drink is said to have lower alcohol content than most other cocktails making it perfect for an all-night-long Christmas Eve party.

Want to try and make your own batch of a traditional English punch? Read on below for a classic recipe made up of the essential ingredients that make this cocktail a festive treat:


1 bottle (750 ml) quality dark rum

1 bottle (750 ml) premium dry red wine

2 cups black tea (brewed and cooled)

1 cup brown sugar 

1 cup granulated sugar

2 to 3 cinnamon sticks

4 to 5 cloves 

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

For the garnish:

Orange slices and cinnamon sticks


In a saucepan, add brown and granulated sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Pour water and stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely.

Take a punch bowl and add rum, wine, brewed tea, orange and lemon juice.

Pour the spiced sugar syrup into the punch and remove the strands of cinnamon and cloves from the mix. You can strain the syrup if it is smooth.

Garnish with orange slices and cinnamon sticks.

Use a ladle to pour the punch into small glass cups for a festive feel. 

Making classic Christmas punch is about using quality ingredients to match festive revelries. You can use premium Captain Morgan Dark Rum to mix a delicious bowl of punch along with a fine dry red wine. If you want to make a more indulgent Christmas drink, you can also add some brandy to the punch bowl. 

Wrapping Up…

A bowl of punch is one of the most festive additions you can make to your bar while celebrating Christmas and New Year’s. Punch has a long history dating back to the colonial ages when it was brought to England from eastern shores as a mix of rum and other delicious ingredients. Make large batches of delicious punch this season to raise the roof at your next gathering!

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