Refreshing summertime punch
A classic drink gives a toast to tradition
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
When I think about punch my thoughts turn to a festive, fruity beverage served in a large glass bowl with a ladle, usually at a baby shower or other celebratory gathering. More often than not, the punch I’ve enjoyed has been non-alcoholic, but a spiked version certainly isn’t out of the question.
Punch has a long and interesting history behind it, both in Scandinavia and in Europe as a whole. European traders brought the beverage back with them to the British Isles from their East Indian travels back in the 18th century. The name “punch” is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word pãnca, which means five, a reference to its five original ingredients: arrack (an alcoholic drink typically produced in India), water, tea, sugar, and spices.
In Norway, punch (or punsj) gained popularity as an after dinner drink alternative to brandy. The punsj of the time was sweet, exotic, and served hot. The beverage was known as a “company drink” (selskapsdrikk), quite literally, a drink to be enjoyed in the company of others.
Ready-made punch that was served cold became popular in Scandinavia in later years, particularly in Sweden. Two primary punch producers set up shop in the city of Karlshamn in the southern province of Blekinge, one of which developed Carlshamns Punsch, the most prominent punch brand produced in Sweden to this day, now known as Carlshamns Flaggpunsch.
The end of the 19th century was the golden age of punch in Scandinavia and throughout Europe. It was the beverage of the time of Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Grieg, two great classics of that time.
In Norway, punsj continues to please and is still a drink of choice today, albeit in many new, creative forms. In Stavanger, one of the city’s most popular bars at the Hotel Victoria, honors the iconic drink with its name Pjolter & Punsj (pjolter is a brandy drink).
Today, punsj is a refreshing summer drink, made with a variety of recipes, both with and without alcohol, ready to be enjoyed in the company of your family and friends. This Sparkling Apple and Ginger Punch with Cucumber and Lime is sure to please everyone at your next gathering. Either enjoy it as a non-alcoholic refreshment or add a little aquavit to taste if you’d like a little more kick.
Sparkling Apple and Ginger Punch
with Cucumber and Lime
1 quart apple juice
1 quart sprite
2 bottles (24 ounces) ginger beer
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
½ cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
1 pint of raspberries
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Aquavit to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir to combine. Serve immediately over ice.
This article originally appeared in the June 10, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.