Hwachae Is Korea's Easy And Refreshing Watermelon Punch Drink

Say "punch" and a large vessel of a celebratory alcoholic beverage likely comes to mind. However, the drink category technically encompasses just about anything mixed in a bowl — including restorative potions.

In Korea, fruit punch is referred to as hwachae. It's a popular cold beverage that is consumed in a variety of forms year-round. Traditionally rooted in its medicinal properties, it offers a medley of beneficial health effects alongside its delectable taste. This is especially true for the watermelon variant of the drink, which has a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that always warrants another sip.

Served in a communal vessel with balls of fruit suspended in an aromatic liquid, watermelon hwachae is almost like a chilled fruit soup. And while it's traditionally a non-alcoholic drink, it can be tweaked for a buzz-inducing version, too. Such malleability is part of its appeal; it's easy to integrate many different components. Let's dive into what this easy-to-make beverage is all about.

What is hwachae?

Hwachae refers to a broad array of more than 30 beverages that have been prepared for centuries. A multitude of hwachae interpretations are enjoyed year-round, but the punch is especially popular come summertime due to its refreshing properties. Modern versions have expanded to include sodas and other sweeteners; however, traditional hwachae is a medicinal beverage. It is usually built around omija – the red fruit of an Asian vine — and often includes flowers and seasonal fruits, like citrus, pears, mung beans, barley, and azalea petals.

In recent years, the watermelon variant — specifically named subak-hwachae — has become an especially popular rendition of the punch as its cooling properties and bright appearance make it a favorite for socializing. Served in a bowl or even a cut-out watermelon, it's an eye-catching drink that can even be turned boozy. This festive rendition showcases the versatility of hwachae — it can range from a health-boosting wintery sipper to a centerpiece of summer festivity.

How watermelon hwachae is prepared

Hwachae can include a shifting arrangement of components and the exact mixture is open to interpretation. The classic watermelon recipe starts with sweetening water with honey, sugar, or condensed milk. However, nowadays, many choose to utilize soda — like ginger ale — as a base. For a creamier interpretation, some milk may be added to the mix and a raspberry-based vinegar can also be incorporated for tartness. If they haven't been cooled beforehand, stir the liquid components together with ice .

Next, add your fruit. In addition to watermelon, honeydew melon is a common summertime hwachae inclusion. Place the fruit components in a large serving vessel using a melon baller. Feel free to add blueberries, pine nuts, or pecan nuts for more textural variance. And, for a chewy component, you can also include rice balls made from rice powder and sugar. Then, pour the mixed liquid over the fruits in the communal bowl. As with other punches, guests can then help themselves to the delectable beverage using a ladle.