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Behind The Stick: Beber El Ponche (Drinking The Punch) At Punch House

By Paul Leddy in Food on Dec 20, 2013 8:00PM


Long before the “classic” cocktails we know today were first created, there was punch. In fact, if we look at the 350+ years history of mixed drinks, it was in the punch bowl that alcohol, sweeteners and flavorings were first brought together.

There are many cocktail places in Chicago that still honor the history and tradition of serving punch but none do it with as much love as Punch House in Pilsen. That passion is working well, they were just named one of the top new bar openings of 2013.

Punch House, located in the basement of Duseks Board & Beer, offers eight types of punch in three categories: Classic, Contemporary and Not Punch (boozy, stirred cocktails). They serve the punches in either glass, carafe or by the bowl.

In today’s video, Punch House beverage director Will Duncan (formerly from Longman & Eagle) demonstrates the Mexican Christmas punch Ponche Navideño.

Ponche Navideño is a great punch by itself and would be appropriate to serve to kids (most recipes list alcohol as optional). However, Duncan says that at Punch House, “the option to add booze is always taken.”

If you would like to try the Punch House version of Ponche Navideño, get there fast. They are only offering the punch during the month of December.

Ponche Navideño
6 quarts water
8 tamarind pods, shelled
3 cinnamon sticks
1 Tablespoon pink peppercorns
2 star anise pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
4 ounces dried hibiscus flowers (AKA flor de jamaica)
1 (8-inch) piece sugar cane, peeled and cut into straws
10 guavas, quartered
16 tejocotes, seeded
1 apple, cubed
1 pear, cubed
1 cup toasted walnuts
5 cups Brown sugar

1/2 ounce Hacienda Mercado Reposado Tequila
1 ounce Landy's Cognac

In a large pot, bring the water and tamarind pods to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain through a mesh strainer, pressing the tamarind to push as much pulp as possible through the mesh. Return the strained mixture to the heat and bring to a simmer. Tie the cinnamon, peppercorns, star anise, cloves and hibiscus into a cheesecloth bundle and add to the mixture. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cheesecloth bundle, and keep the mixture warm on the stove or in a slow cooker.

Add alcohol and 3-5 ounces of punch (including the fruit and nuts) to a mug and serve.

Punch House is located at 1227 W. 18th St.

Will Duncan (Punch House) - Ponche Navideño (Enhanced) from Chicago Cocktail Chronicles on Vimeo.