Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Ponche: the Liqueur of Jerez

The origins of Ponche (or punch) go back to ancient Persia where they made a drink called “panj.” The word means five and it contained five ingredients: spirit, sugar, lemon, water and tea. In the XVII century The British East India Company introduced the drink to the western colonies where the recipe would be adjusted to local tastes. Seamen would often mix it with rum.  It was a likely forebear of what we now call the cocktail.

Ponche has been made in the Marco de Jerez since the early XIX century and nearly every bodega had an example. It is the classic Jerez liqueur and is basically a blend of Jerez brandy, a little sweet Sherry and various spices with an alcoholic strength varying between about 23-35ᴼ. It is often used as a digestif and makes a wonderful additive in desserts. Some bodegas felt this was a spirit with more appeal to women as it was sweeter and less fiery than brandy.

An old bottle with the certification
Old labels often claim health-giving properties such as “tónico reconstituyente” or “tónico sin igual.” The Ponche Soto label even used to have a certification from the municipal chemical laboratory of Jerez. This sort of claim is no longer legal, but after a hard day’s work an evening glass of Ponche on the rocks is just what the doctor ordered. It is a gentle quite sweet liqueur, amber in colour with complex aromas and flavours of fresh orange, almond and vanilla. It is lovely!


The leading brands, which are all made from secret recipes but much the same ingredients, are often in silver bottles.

Ponche Caballero: First produced in 1830, this is the oldest brand and has been the brand leader since 1969. Its secret formula is based on 5 main botanicals: Oranges from Andalucía, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, vanilla from México, clove from Madagascar and nutmeg from Indonesia. The firm also produces Ponche Caballero 10, a more luxurious version in a gold bottle, based on 10 botanicals: almond, raisins, prunes, mandarin peel, coriander from Morocco, nutmeg from Grenada, vanilla from México and cinnamon and clove from Sri Lanka. There is even Crema Caballero, a version made with fresh cream at 17%.

Ponche Soto: (Garvey) This important brand (number two) dates from the late XIX century. Ponche Garvey was dropped when the firm took over José de Soto)

Ponche Ataola: (Diez Mérito) (not in silver bottle)

Ponche Santa María: Osborne (silver bottle)

Ponche Real Tesoro (Marqués de Real Tesoro, not in silver bottle)

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