The Origins of Punch
Scholars have generally believed that the likeliest derivation of the word "punch" as an alcoholic drink is from the Hindi word पंज panch or panj, meaning five. Many of the early descriptions of punch had five ingredients.
Of course the native word for five would have been familiar to the traders and other employees of the British East India Company.
The Punjab region was named for its five rivers, though from Persian rather than Hindi.
The panchamrita is the five-fold divine nectar used as an offering to the gods during Hindu pujas. It often consists of honey, sugarcane juice, cow's milk, yoghurt and ghee. Sometimes it has other ingredients, occasionally more than five.
The famous Indian five-spice powder is called paanch masaala or panch phoran. Not to be confused with the Chinese five-spice powder wŭ xiāng.
Another use of the word panch is in panchadhatu or panchaloha, the alloy of five metals used in India for sacred statues. One version is made with gold, silver, copper, zinc and iron. The five metals represent the five Hindu great elements. The word punch or panch in Anglo-Indian usage denoted a panchayat or local council of five members.
Porcelain Punch Bowl, c. 1770. Worcester Porcelain Factory
More after the break.