The first of modern mixed drinks, the word "punch" is a loanword from Hindi panch and the drink was originally made with alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. In Imbibe!, David Wondrich cites an English drink by George Cascoine in Delicate Diet for Daintie Mouthde Droonkardes (1576) as one of the earliest appearances of punches. Punch was brought back from India to England by sailors and spread to Europe and the rest of the world.
The popularity of punches was already waning by the mid 1800s as people wanted more idividual drinks, helped along by the general availability of ice.
"To make punch of any sort in perfection, the ambrosial essence of the lemon must be extracted by rubbing lumps of sugar on the rind, which breaks the delicate little vessels that contain the essence, and at the same time absorbs it. This, and making the mixture sweet and strong, using tea instead of water, and thoroughly amalgamating all the compounds, so that the taste of neither the bitter, the sweet, the spirit, nor the element, shall be perceptible one over the other, is the grand secret, only to be acquired by practice.
"In making hot toddy, or hot punch, you must put in the spirits before the water: in cold punch, grog, &c., the other way.
"The precise portions of spirit and water, or even of the acidity and sweetness, can have no general rule, as scarcely two persons make punch alike."
Jerry Thomas, 1862