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Bar, Ponchas, Venda do André, Madeira
©Gonçalo F. SantosPonchas da Venda do André

Four types of Madeira punch (poncha) you need to try

Poncha is the most well-known alcoholic drink on the island, made with sugar cane brandy, sugar and lemon juice. But, in addition to the traditional version, there are other versions that are worth trying.

Written by
Inês Garcia
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Just with three ingredients, is this most emblematic drink on the Madeira Island - and also the most dangerous. Don't be fooled by the small cup and its harmless look (at first glance, it looks like juice). Our advice is to drink it while standing, to never lose track of the floor and the surrounding space, otherwise, if you stay seated to drink while attacking peanuts or lupins (the best combination), you are quite capable of ending up seeing the world turning around. The simplest and most traditional poncha is made only with sugar cane brandy (Madeiran rum), sugar and lemon juice and is called the fisherman's poncha. Everything is well mixed with the poncha stick, better known as “caralhinho”. But there are more versions, some sweeter (and, as such, more dangerous). Discover four ponchas that you can drink in Madeira, but pay attention to the ingredients - in some, the traditional sugar cane brandy has been altered with other white drinks, from vodka to absinthe.

Pescador
©Gonçalo F. Santos

Pescador

Purists will tell you the only true Madeira poncha (punch) is made just as the fishermen in the area around Câmara de Lobos made it. It was they who created the drink as they looked for something to keep them warm on cold nights. The only ingredients are cane sugar brandy, lemon juice and sugar. You might find some places that use honey instead of sugar, but the purists will tell you that is a modern addition. Be warned: this is a strong drink.

Regional
©Gonçalo F. Santos

Regional

In terms of popularity, regional poncha is right up there with Pescador. This one is made with cane sugar brandy, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. It might also have honey.

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Tangerina
©Gonçalo F. Santos

Tangerina

Fruits such as tangerine and passion fruit help soften the kick of the brandy in the poncha, almost making it taste like a fruit juice – but be warned, it has exactly the same amount of cane sugar brandy. Tangerina poncha includes tangerine and orange juice, sugar and brandy.

Passion fruit
©Gonçalo F. Santos

Passion fruit

Passion fruit is one of the most popular fruits in Madeira, where they come in a number of different varieties, ranging from the purple regional fruit to the yellow Brazilian version. Passion fruit poncha is very sweet, and is made with passion fruit pulp, sugar and cane sugar brandy.

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