All you need to make a poncha (a type of fruit punch) is brandy, lemon or orange juice, and sugar and honey. But it’s not just any brandy or fruit from the supermarket! At Venda da Poncha, only the Calheta brandy is used, with an alcohol content of 50%, and it is the oldest of the spirits produced in Madeira’s sugar cane mills. Lemons and oranges are bought fresh at the market and the honey comes from a small producer in the Alentejo region.
Venda de Poncha is a food truck that travels to festivals and events on mainland Portugal to promote Madeira’s best-known drink (see below for upcoming events). More than just selling a few glasses, it promotes a particular lifestyle. Poncha was traditionally made by farmers and fishermen to cope with the harshness of their daily work. It began by being sold from small stands or in small shops – which in Madeira are known as “vendas” (sales outlets) – with peanuts to accompany it.
Over time, it became a habit to drink a poncha “when we came back from surfing, from a long walk, or before going out at night,” says Manuel Vacas, one of the founders of the brand. “We wanted to recreate the true experience of gathering a group of people together in the street, at the door of the “venda”. Nowadays, together with the football star Cristiano Ronaldo, poncha is an authentic ambassador for the region.
Friends of poncha
Do you know that old saying about not mixing friends and family with business? Forget it. Venda da Poncha is the result of a project involving siblings, siblings-in-law and childhood friends. And the idea is just as good as the brandy itself.
“This project came about because my brother and I really like street food,” explains Manuel. After talking with his brother, Pedro and his brother-in-law, Paulo Brito, called on their friend Miguel Fernandez to help improve sales and the service offered to the public, thus giving rise to Venda da Poncha.
Of course, there are many variations of this traditional Madeiran drink. Some people use passion fruit, Suriname cherries or other Madeiran fruit, and some people prefer using more sugar and less or vice versa. At Venda da Poncha, Miguel uses only two recipes: the regional one (with orange and lemon juice) and the fisherman’s one (with lemon juice and a little more sugar).
One glass: €3
Aura Festival – Sintra | 2–5 August
Esplendor na Relva (Splendour in the Grass) – Sintra | All weekends in August