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Southern Bourbon Punch.jpg
Southern Bourbon Punch
Type Mixed drink
Standard drinkware Often served in a punch bowl with punch glasses.
Commonly used ingredients Usually fruit juices and other drink mixers, optionally with alcohol.
Preparation Varies widely. Many prepared mixes are available.
Punch bowl and stand, made at the Meissen factory, Germany, 1770, V&A Museum no. C.37&A-1960[1]

Punch is a general term for any of a wide assortment of mixed drinks, either soft or alcoholic, often rum, generally containing fruit or fruit juice.[2] The drink was brought from India to England in the early seventeenth century, and from there it was introduced into other countries.[3] Punch is typically served at parties in large, wide bowls, known as punch bowls.



The word punch is a loanword from Hindi panch and the drink was made from five different ingredients: spirit, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices.[4] The original drink was named paantsch, which comes from the Persian word panj for five.[5] The English numeral "five" is ultimately related to Persian "panj" as well as Sanskrit "pañca".

Alternatively, it may have derived from the word puncheon, a cask that held 72 gallons, from which a punch bowl could be made.

The drink was brought back from India to England by the sailors and employees of the British East India Company in the early seventeenth century, and from there it was introduced into other European countries.[3]

The term punch was first recorded in British documents dating back to 1632. At that time, most punches were of the Wassail type, or with a wine or brandy base, but by around 1655, when Jamaica came out with rum, the 'modern' punch was born and by 1671, there were references to punch houses.

Today, many soft drink manufacturers distribute varying types of "fruit punch" beverages. These are usually colored red and despite the name, most brands garner only a small fraction of their flavor from actual fruit, the majority coming from sugar or corn syrup, citric acid and artificial flavors.


Cups are another type of punch. An English tradition, served before the departure of a hunting party, but today are served at a variety of social events such as garden parties, cricket and tennis matches and at picnics. Cups are generally lower in alcohol to punches and usually have wine, cider, sloe gin, or other low alcohol liqueur as the base, and often include quantities of fruit juices and/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 juice, then add orange, lemon and apple slice, a couple of cucumber wedges and decorate with borage flowers.

Rum punches

There are several rum-based punches: Planter's Punch, Bajan Rum Punch, Caribbean Rum Punch, and others. The two most historical rum punches are the Planter's Punch and Bajan Rum Punch.

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, 1 part lime juice, 2 parts sweetener, 3 parts rum (preferably Barbados rum), and 4 parts water. It is served with a dash or two of Angostura Bitters and Nutmeg.

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.[6]

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.

Around the world

Fruit punch

Fruit punches, such as Hawaiian Punch or certain flavors of Kool-Aid, contain no alcohol. These may be used as drink mixers in cocktails.

In the United States and Canada, punches are extremely common among parties for college and university students. These punches tend to be highly alcoholic and made with cheap ingredients. Some even exclude water altogether and have 30% ABV or more.

In a large number of Caribbean, Pacific or Indian Ocean countries, punch is drunk as an apéritif before meals.

In Korean culture, sujeonggwa is a traditional punch made from dried persimmons, cinnamon and ginger.

In Mexico, agua loca ("crazy water") is a very sweet punch usually made from fermented sugarcane, mezcal or tequila, and mixed with aguas frescas (usually agua de Jamaica) or horchata. Due to its sweetness, the drinker may not notice the taste of the alcohol and may become intoxicated more quickly than he or she had anticipated. This drink is popular on college campuses as a cheap way to get drunk.

In Germanic culture, punch (or Punsch in German) refers to a mixture of several fruit juices and spices, often with wine or liquor added. Punch is popular in Germany, as well as with many Germans who emigrated to America. The traditional German Christmas often includes a Feuerzangenbowle ("Burnt Punch" or, literally, "Fire Tongs Bowl"). This is a punch made from red wine and flaming rum, poured over a Zuckerhut ("sugar hat"), a large conical sugar cube placed on the "Feuerzange" which supports it above the bowl.

See also


  1. ^ "Punch bowl and Stand". Metalwork. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2007-12-09. 
  2. ^ Punch at
  3. ^ a b Edwards, Graham and Sue. The Language of Drink, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1988.
  4. ^ Loanwords
  5. ^ Punch at the Online Etymology Dictionary
  6. ^ David Wondrich (2004). Esquire Drinks. Hearst Books. pp. 192. ISBN 1588162052. 
  • Cross, Robert. The Classic 1000 Cocktails (1996), ISBN 0-572-02161-5

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