Hot Mexican Christmas punch

About Manny Hinojosa:
Although he now travels the United States inventing new cocktails, celebrated bartender Manny Hinojosa, formerly of Walnut Creek Yacht Club, credits his current profession to his mom's kitchen in Mexico City. "I spent so much time in that kitchen," he says. "Everything I learned there I transferred to the bar." One of his childhood traditions was ponche, a hot infusion of fruit and spices bolstered by a wallop of alcohol. The beverage is a staple of Las Posadas, a tradition that takes place December 16-24, honoring Mary and Joseph's efforts to secure lodging (posada means "inn"). Each day during Las Posadas, a different family hosts its neighbors, and each home offers a piñata for the kids and ponche for the adults.

The recipe Hinojosa currently uses, scented with hibiscus and teeming with prunes, guavas, and raisins, is much like his mother's. But, as every child must claim the past as his own, Hinojosa has made one striking change: He's swapped the brandy his mother used for tequila. Who says traditions can't evolve?

Mexican Christmas Punch

Put 10 to 12 cups of water in a pot. Add 3 cups of sugar, a small piece of piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), 8 guavas (canned is fine), 8 small sugar cane sticks (if available), 1/2 cup raisins, 4 orange slices, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 cup hibiscus flowers, 1 sliced apple, 1 sliced pear, and 1/2 cup prunes. Boil together, and then add 1 1/2 ounces of Cazadores Reposado or Añejo tequila.

Serve the drink family-style in a pitcher. Put a stick of sugar cane and a teaspoon in each cup you're serving, and pour in punch with fruit. Serve very hot.

Read the article in Diablo Magazine featuring Hinojosa here.

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