So I promised to tell you about the other specialty of Madeira … poncha!
Once again we were lead to the experience by Alex and few others in Gav’s local gang. ‘You MUST try poncha’ they told us. “Just a little taste…’ they said. Famous last words!
We were taken firstly to an area that was once an old fisherman’s hangout called Camara de Lobos. Apparently the fishermen would gather here to drink their concoction to warm up on cold days before heading out to sea. The bars in this area are the experts in creating the perfect poncha, which has become quite the trendy drink across Madeira.
The original recipe is based on ‘aguardente de cana’ (local rum but stronger!), a twist of lemon & sugar cane juice, now lemon juice is used rather than a twist, and honey in place of sugar. All of the ingredients they originally put together had the purpose of not only warming the belly but also thought to ward off any colds and flu. It’s still used today for this purpose – now there’s an idea!
Actually, strangely enough, the day before our ‘poncho night’ something tweaked in my lower back which left me crying in pain – literally. So much so that I had surrendered to taking strong painkillers and using anti-inflam cream to get some relief. Now, never the girl to miss out, I decided to go along this night, regardless of the fact that I was hobbling around like a 90 year old, and guess what? The following day I woke to, yes, a bit of a cloudy head but I also woke with little, to no back pain! What the ?… It seems that poncho doesn’t only cure the common cold – it gets rid of nasty back pain as well.
So, the delicious colours in the pic indicate the flavour, (right to left) blood red = english tomato, green = eucalyptus, yellow = tangerine (my favourite!), red = guava, yellow = orange & lemon and the last one is the original which is lemon.
As the night rolled on, and a few bars were visited, we saw that the process of making the poncha is pretty much the same in every bar.
It looked to me like they were using a muddling stick to mash all the ingredients together but alas NO… there’s a secret to this drink it seems, and it’s called the ‘caralhinho’, which the locals love to translate to you as ‘little dick’ – don’t ask me why? The caralhinho is a carved wooden stick that looks a little like a medieval club. It’s generally made from orange trees, which is meant to help flavour the drink. Looks just like this …
Well, whatever their secret, whether that be the local rum or the use of the caralhinho, it’s a winning formula, easy to drink – too easy perhaps!
“Just a little taste” they said!….