Refreshing summertime punch 

A classic drink gives a toast to tradition

punch

Photo: Kristi Bissell
This sparkling punsj is a lovely, refreshing beverage for parties and festive gatherings.

KRISTI BISSELL
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

INGREDIENTS

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.

GRAND CAFE

Photo: VisitOSLO / Anders Husa
Today, you can visit the historic Grand Café at the Grand Hotel on Karl Johans gate in Oslo, where Henrik Ibsen came for lunch each day. Its beautiful murals will take you back time, as you enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine from one of the most extensive wine lists in Norway.

This article originally appeared in the June 10, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Kristi Bissell

Kristi Bissell is the founder of True North Kitchen, a Nordic food blog designed for the American home cook. She enjoys creating recipes that celebrate her Scandinavian heritage and that approach traditional Nordic ingredients in a modern, fresh and approachable way. Kristi is a native of Minneapolis and currently resides in Omaha, Neb. When she’s not cooking and baking in her cozy kitchen, Kristi teaches private and corporate yoga classes and leads Scandinavian cooking and baking workshops. For more information, visit her blog, www.true-north-kitchen.com.

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