Wait, What? Punch Has An Indian Connection?

While we harp on about Indian food, let’s not forget India’s long list of contributions to the world of beverages. Several Indian drinks have been adapted globally. Take the Haldi Doodh, for instance, which got a global makeover as Turmeric Latte. Even in the world of cocktails, India has made its presence felt, mostly due to the British. Did you know your beloved G&T was originally a cure for Malaria for the British soldiers stationed in India? That’s not all. You would be surprised to know that your party staple ‘Punch’ also has an Indian connection.

Punch, for the uninitiated, is a combination of various drinks and spirits, generally containing fruit, fruit juices and/or various kinds of alcoholic spirits. It is served at parties and gatherings in large bowls also known as punch bowls. It is said that the drink was introduced from the Indian subcontinent to England by employees of the East India Company in the late 17th century. Even in his book, Indian Food: A Historical Companion, food historian KT Achaya writes, “...some unique Anglo-Indian terms arose in the area of food. Punch was from Panch and denoted the five components used in making the drink. Toddy came from the Hindi Tari for the fermented sap of tala or palmyra palm”.

There’s another slightly less popular theory that the origin of the word Punch may have come from the sailor’s slang ‘puncheon’. Which was used to refer to a large wooden cask used to transport rum. But most historians have confirmed the drink indeed has a solid connection to the East India Company’s stay in India.

Experts also say that the British made the drink and called it Punch to fuse five, otherwise unpalatable drinks, to make one strong concoction. Then there are theories about the ‘Oriental’ roots of the drinks. In the East, including India and other neighbouring regions, it was common to mix spirits with spices and fruits. So, were the British simply inspired? Well, no one can truly tell. 

But recipe books have records of how detailed the whole ‘punch-making’ business became in time to come. According to the so-called ‘Rule of Five’, it was believed that a Punch was supposed to have five ingredients: a sour one, a sweet one, a strong one, a weak one, and some spices.

Of course, later there were many renditions of Punch that were popularised across the globe, and the number of ingredients also increased from five to 12, 13, or even 15. Here’s a fun, fruity, and boozy recipe you will definitely enjoy.