And then there was poncha

Before arriving on Madeira, we had heard about Poncha – the local drink that seems to be enjoyed pretty much wherever and whenever.

And during our first evening on the island we got a taste of the stuff; it was being made fresh at stalls in the capital, Funchal, at what they called the festival of light (though it did not actually coincide with the night of the winter solstice, which the little heathen in me would have appreciated).

Poncha is yellow and served in a small glass — not normally in cocktail glasses like the ones in the picture. It consists of produce all grown locally on the island. The drink takes spirit brewed from sugar cane, honey, and freshly squeezed lemons. If it sounds sweet; you are right, however, the acidity of the lemons creates a nice contrast. And if it is too sour, you can always throw in oranges or passion fruit. We have tried poncha a few times now, and the citrus-honey-sugar cane-spirit balance shifts with the poncha-maker. Still: in most instances it has been very good.

We also tried to buy the bottled stuff: premade poncha on a flask to take home. Then we opened it on Christmas eve to have a small taste and we were thoroughly disappointed. The stuff in the bottle is not at all like the fresh version.

Lesson learned: scrap the idea of bringing poncha home. Bring home spirit brewed from sugar cane instead, and make the thing from scratch when back! This also gives me an excuse to buy a poncha stick! (Both of which have been procured today).

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