English Punch: The Journey Of This Drink From India To England

Whenever talking about lavish drinks for parties, English punch is one of the top names that comes to everyone’s mind. Traditionally served during dinners, it is a staple part of the celebrations in Germany, Britain and many other parts of the world. This sweet and warm drink is the perfect amalgamation of dark rum and red wine along with a hint of citrusy fruits. But did you know English punch has an Indian connection?  

Made in heavy steel glass bowls or cast-iron pot, its origins can be traced back to the 17th century. Believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, it is said to be inspired by arrack (a distilled spirit) drink which was prepared along with rosewater, citrus fruits and sugar. English traders from the East India Company, when they encountered this beverage, fell in love with it and introduced arrack to England around the late 1600s. 

Back in England, the Indian mixed drink went through a transformation and got to be known as punch. It is also said that the classic English drink derived its name from the Hindi word paanch (five), meaning a cocktail prepared with five ingredients including rum, sugar, lemon or lime juice, water and spices. Initially, punch was made with wine or brandy which was similar to the Indian version. However, with the arrival of Jamaican rum, the scene changed.   

Rum, being a cheaper and more readily available spirit, became the base of this cocktail, giving rise to the modern punch that you enjoy now. Punch quickly attracted palates of English community and became a staple at social gatherings and grand parties. The ingredients of punch- rum, sugar, citrus fruits and spices were said to be luxury items at the time, making this beverage a symbol of wealth and sophistication. Even the possession of punch bowls in which the drink was traditionally made was associated with high class people of society. 

The popularity of this beverage was not just about its taste, as the drink was served from a large bowl, it fostered a sense of friendliness and social interaction. Punch was meant to be shared and enjoyed by a group rather than an individual. Over the centuries, it continued to evolve, and new recipes emerged, incorporating a wider variety of fruits, spices, and even teas. The alcohol content in the punch became more moderate, catering to a larger community. Even today, English punch remains a delightful cocktail that is enjoyed at celebrations and social gatherings.  

English Punch Recipe  


  • 750 ml dark rum  
  • 750 ml dry red wine  
  • 2 cups black tea   
  • 1 cup brown sugar   
  • 1 cup granulated sugar  
  • 2 cinnamon sticks  
  • 5 cloves   
  • 1/2 cup orange juice  
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice  

For the garnish:  

  • Orange slices and cinnamon sticks  


  • In a saucepan, add both the sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Pour water and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely.  
  • In a punch bowl, add rum, wine, tea, orange and lemon juice.  
  • Pour the syrup into the punch and discard the strands of cinnamon and cloves. 
  • Garnish with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Pour in glass cups and enjoy.