This past week Newsweek ran an article on planterʼs punch, actually reviewing a recent book on rum and its history. The lovely little article referenced Elmore Leonard and Hemingway; it discussed briefly history (at least of Jamaica and planterʼs punch). It was irresistible! Reading it on Wednesday evening put me in the mindset/mood for fruit-laced alcoholic summery drinks, particularly for rum punch, a drink of which, Janet believes, I am notoriously fond. I donʼt know about that…
In the olden days (say about 1973), I discovered with pleasure that I liked (in addition to sangria, which probably deserves its own tale and post and which the lovely wife and I enjoyed just a few weekends ago, first at a restaurant in Dubuque and then at home in our own creation) mai tais, Pacific close-relative to the standard Caribbean rum punch but found with ease at any Chinese restaurant with a bar. I never really knew what was in them, except some kind of alcohol and fruit juice; all I knew is that I enjoyed them — refreshing with Hunan, Kung Pao and Szechwan dishes, delightful even with mu shu or Mongolian beef. I believe two sets of girlfriends had to endure my mai tai consumption, up to and including Janet. (As I formalized my inept nonproposal of marriage by presenting her with a ring while dining Chinese in Davenport, mai tais may even have been present for that occasion.) When we flew to Fiji on a super-good-deal fam trip in 1986, the mai tai continued to exert its allure in genuine tropical-paradisial environments, even sitting in the tiny bar at our second site, an obscure island, listening to the Prince Andrew/Sarah Ferguson wedding. Although I donʼt recall now, I bet that I enjoyed one or two when I finally relented and we went to Hawaii.
But now, perhaps sadly, perhaps wisely, I havenʼt tasted the pseudo-Polynesian beverage in at least twenty years. On our trips to St. Martin and Jamaica and both Caribbean cruises (one westward to Mexico, one eastward through many isles to the U.S. Virgins — oh, and back, both times, to wherever in Florida we had started), I discovered and savored rum punch. Especially in Jamaica where we stayed at a very small, cozily intimate, quite enjoyable all-inclusive hotel in Runaway Bay, Eaton Hall Beach Hotel and Villas — which remarkably and thankfully still exists. (Click the link because you will be able to see from the air the outdoor bar I am about to discuss.) The “all-inclusive” part is the key element in that thought: I could enjoy all the rum punch I wanted for nothing (well, letʼs be honest — for no additional cost). And I did. I recollect one particular afternoon (albeit pretty hazily), sitting at the beach bar, all isolated on the rounded end of its spur of sand and gravel thrust tentatively into the bay, as tropical rain fell heavily from murky, charcoal skies, consuming one about every ten minutes for a very long time (I donʼt know if we went to dinner that night — probably we did; after all we had paid for it already). And that was just one day…
But I havenʼt had a rum punch in a long while, either. Yes, our eastward cruise on Royal Caribbean was within the last decade, but at the early stage of that ten-year span. So Newsweekʼs considerations stirred my imagination and desire. And as I type, I am sipping at a home-made rum punch. (In fact, give me a minute or two, because itʼs time to go downstairs and mix up another.)
Janet had created us rum punches a couple of times, to relish while sitting in the driveway “having cocktails,” as she has liked to say (an activity which has, I am sure, depressed or amused the many Methodists who must pass by en route to Sunday evening activities at their church up the street). For those occasions, and there werenʼt many, sheʼd mix up the fruit juice and rum in a pitcher. Yesterday/Saturday, for that is when I type, while The Lovely One is on the phone with her sister, I made my own, having purchased while we were out grocery shopping (after a prolonged three-and-a-half hour stretch through the morning going over my crewʼs first two daysʼ of work) some cheap rum (we have a bit of good stuff, dark and oily and 21 years old, but why waste that, sippable all on its own, in a drink meant to disguise the roughness of unfiltered antique rum?), some grapefruit juice and some grenadine. We already had some orange juice, lime juice and lemon juice.
Once the phone rang for her afternoon conversation, I got busy with the liquids, some ice cubes and our freezable frosty mugs (that have sat frozen in the basement refrigeratorʼs freezer compartment for far too long, untouched). The grapefruit juice came through quite harshly (but definitely not undrinkably) on my first attempt, but (and my thanks for giving me pause to go and create the second) the next tasted better, almost perfect.
As I previously provided my recipe for my own wintertime concoction (equally enjoyable in the autumn or spring, but somewhat heavy for a summer afternoon), the Snowy Evening, hereʼs the recipe for my own just-invented planterʼs punch:
In a large, cold glass combine:
- a jigger (or so) of white rum
- four or five ounces of orange juice
- about an ounce less (or even less) of ruby red grapefruit juice (your glass should be about two-thirds full now)
- ice cubes (enough to raise the liquid to about five-sevenths, and the melting ice adds variety and smoothness to the drink)
- a shot of grenadine (really just for color, as we all know)
- a big squirt or two of lime juice
- a big squirt or three of lemon juice (your glass should now be full)
Stir and drink. Experiment.
Enjoy! I am about to concoct my third…