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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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punch, which generally refers to a blended drink of sweetened alcohol flavored with fruit and spices, has its origins in Persia and India. Nonalcoholic, iced sherbets made with sugar, lemon juice, and water and flavored with flower waters had been discovered by Europeans. One apocryphal story has Saladin serving sherbets to King Richard during the Crusades. See flower waters and sherbet. In India, among non-Muslims, alcohol was added to make a delicately perfumed drink called palepuntz, “consisting of Acquaevitae, Rose-water, juice of citrons and sugar,” as described in Mandelslo’s Travels in Western India, 1638–1639. These Indian “punches” were made with arrack (distilled palm wine) and cane sugar or jaggery, a sticky, dark brown palm sugar refined with lime juice. See palm sugar. A popular theory concerning the name suggests that “punch” is a corruption of the Hindi panch, meaning “five,” referring to the five elements of strong (alcohol), weak (water or fruit juice), sour (citrus juice), sweet (sugar), and spice, all essential to the making of punch.