Planter’s Punch

For anyone who has searched the internet, or hunted down books, they know there are a great many Planter’s Punch recipes out there.  It is not one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, aging as hundreds of years than thousands of years.  Yet, when considering the lifespan of rum, or what was first called “Rumbullion” (1650s), it is an old recipe, 200 years old – and still looking good.

Out of all the tiki drinks, “Polynesian” drinks, Caribbean drinks, or tropical drinks, out of the great many drinks to choose from – there were the first ones, the ones which started the craze, the originals.  Afterwards, numbering like the stars in the night sky, they opened the doors for a new creativity (or some not so much, more like stealing).  But in the beginning, which is a broad span of time, it astonishes me how most tropical drinks were not created anywhere near the tropics, but as a tribute to them, or most likely to remind people of far away exotic places.  Thanks to what I read from Beachbum Berry’s book, Remixed, when it comes to classic tropical drinks, the Daiquiri (Cuba), Planter’s Punch (Jamaica),  and Dr. Funk (Samoa) are the only originated in the tropics.  I have mentioned the Daiquiri in an earlier post, now I must pay my respects to another fostering fortification.

I have so much fun learning about rum’s history, where it first introduced production, the infancy of how to drink it – other than straight, development throughout the world, and the shining celebration of what rum is today because of it all.  Planter’s Punch had its own say in history, a voice which echoed into modern ears, a timeless recipe all on its own, as well as a blueprint for brilliant variations.  Here are two ways the recipe was remembered:

"Planter's Punch! A West Indian Recipe"
A wine-glass with lemon juice fill,
Of sugar the same glass fill twice
Then rub them together until
The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.
Of rum then three wine glasses add,
And four of cold water please take.
A Drink then you'll have that's not bad —
At least, so they say in Jamaica.
-- published in Fun magazine, London, September 1878
__________________________________________________________________
"Planter's Punch" 
This recipe I give to thee, 
Dear brother in the heat. 
Take two of sour (lime let it be) 
To one and a half of sweet, 
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong, 
And add four parts of weak. 
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong -- 
I know whereof I speak.
-- published in the New York Times, 8 August 1908
Note:  Back then, a “wine-glass” measurement was considered 2 ounces.

I need to say something about the garnish, because in this case it has to do with Jamaica more than it has to do with this drink.  Garnishing basically does two things:  It makes the cocktail look nice, and it gives off a scent, or sometimes many scents.  Of course there is the option of eating your garnish.  With that said, I’m throwing all of that out the window for this drink, just this once, and intend a garnish to mean more.  This garnish means something else.

jamaica-flag

Jamaica.  Please go there, and have the best time of your life.  Please spend lots of money on the island, please eat all you can and as many different things you can find.  I went with a group of finicky eaters, except for one.  He and I ate like kings on what the rest refused to eat, or too frightened to swallow.  I could go on and on about how many delicious foods and drinks come from that phenomenal island.  I’ll leave that between you and your internet.

I was lucky to study for a short time in Jamaica, far too short, and still miss the friends I made there.  My school sponsored a semester abroad, allowing me attendance to two universities (and a home-stay) in both Kingston and Mandeville.  When not in the classroom, we drove all over the island to celebrate “weekends” or “vacations” for the sake of exploration and curiosity.  It was simply glorious.  Ninety-nine life-changing days, ninety-nine days of paradise, ninety-nine days of beautiful scenery and beautiful people, including ninety-nine days of widespread poverty, yet always the wondrous sensation of the Jamaican spirit.  Please do no go to Jamaica for the place alone – it’s the people who make the place.  The nation is both land and people – the people become the land as the land becomes the people.  Please go there on vacation, and meet as many people as you can.

When I thought of making this drink, I wanted to separate the garnish from the thought process by using it to reflect my time on Jamaica, instead of provoking the flavors of the drink.  I drove by a banana plantation, noticing only for a moment a few banana pickers.  They wore next to nothing.  The term “rag” held more of a definition to that of fabric than what those men wore in the jungle.  Then on a northern  beach, on holiday, as a marching band played one of my favorite Bob Marley tunes, I bought the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever tasted from one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met.  And finally, while staying in Kingston at the Cole’s, at least two different mango trees fed us daily (of course not the only thing – some of the best food I’ve ever eaten was made by Mrs. Cole).

I will always remember Mrs. Cole (and her family, as well as Velita, the woman who worked there).  When I see a mango, or eat one, my mind immediately takes me to the comfort she provided under her roof.  I will always remember the kind woman who sold me the little pineapple before a rain came.  Regardless if it was such a short conversation, that spectacularly-filled moment marked itself in my memory whenever I eat pineapple – a moment so full of powerfully remembered events, making an ordinary day a holiday in its own right.  I will always remember those men walking along the road, wearing  strings for clothing under the dark shade of the dense banana fronds, foregrounding a waterfalls in the distant mountains.  I asked myself in that VW bus, “How long until jungles no longer exist?”  That moment is a permanent memory, and one I think of often, since I am able to buy bananas anytime.

These three fruits do not sum up all of my experiences in Jamaica.  However, this is the most honest representation I could think of without the use of a Jamaican flag.  Inhale deeply when you drink this, as with all drinks, but in this example inhale and imagine Jamaica.

Planter's Punch
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz honey
1/4 oz falernum
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Bärenjäger (honey liqueur)
1/2 oz gold Jamaican (Appleton)
1/2 oz dark Jamaican (Smith & Cross)
1 oz gold Virgin Islands (I used Pyrat, from Anguilla)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 oz crushed ice
 

Warm honey so it will shake more easily into other liquids.  Shake ingredients with crushed ice until frost begins to form on metal shaker. Pour unstrained into chilled glass.  Add more ice to fill if necessary.  Garnish with sizable chunks of pineapple, banana and mango (if the mango is too thin after cutting from the seed, join pieces and trim to look like one big piece).

I called the next recipe a Fizz because of the definition of a Fizz, which takes after an older invention – the Sour.  A Sour is a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and sugar.  The Fizz is basically a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and carbonated water, whose fame grew substantially in America between 1900 and the 1940s.  The Gin Fizz was particularly popular in New Orleans, another town specialty.

Wray & Nephew and Ting go great together.  There are a lot of people who don’t care for the flavor of Wray & Nephew rum, and understandably so since it has a unique taste about it.  And mixing it with other rums can get a little tricky because it can take over even after adding such a small amount.  I think of it very similarly to that of Maraschino liqueur – any more than a dash will alter the drink irrecoverably.  Another good example is demonstrated from the movie, The Myth of Fingerprints, where they briefly discuss the concept of spreading too much mustard on a sandwich, and in effect creating nothing more than a mustard sandwich.  Reluctant in adding too much Wray & Nephew, yet hoping the Myers’s rum would play its mellow pronouncements well enough in contrast, I knew the overproof would win since the term “overproof” essentially means more flavor anyway.  And for those unfamiliar with overproof rums, please always remember they are twice as strong, and require half as much for both flavor and alcoholic effect.  

Planter's Fizz
1 oz Myers's dark
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof 
1 oz fresh lime juice 
2 oz Ting (Didn't have this time - used Jarritos) 
2 oz Pineapple pop (Jarritos)

Shake all but pop with ice, pouring unstrained into chilled tall glass.  Stir pop in gently.  Garnish with a cherry.

Will the Planter’s Fizz become my precedent recipe for Planter’s Punch?  Absolutely not.  The most simplistic version is what I will drink the most, followed by others’ renditions.  Only after properly paying tribute will I shake-up my own recipes.

Mai Tai

The Mai Tai is not a red drink.  I repeat, if you order a Mai Tai in a restaurant or bar, and if they bring you something red, it is not a Mai Tai.  It is the color of rum, luxuriant amber.  All other ingredients do not change the color, only slightly clouding it.

Tiara (from http://www.amountainofcrushedice.com) said it well:

“A Mai Tai is a Mai Tai and a twist of it is another drink – like a cousin and a cousin needs a slightly different name. When making a twist, stick to the original recipe as your foundation and don`t change it so much that it´s not based on a Mai Tai anymore.  In my opinion you can NOT add amaretto, grenadine, pineapple or/and orange juice and call it a Mai Tai – call them something + Mai Tai or give the drink an entirely new name.”

Some believe a Mai Tai can only have a lime shell and mint for garnish, making a pineapple spear a savage practice, or at least offensive (As you see in the images below I haven’t garnished with mint for either of these because my mint isn’t tall enough yet in my garden.  But this hot weather will change that soon enough).  However I am not going to get into any argument.  That’s why I’m offering two Mai Tai recipes.  For those of you who are not familiar with Mai Tais, or have not read anything about them, or talked with someone who feels passionately about the topic of Mai Tai authenticity, you may not be aware of the family feud going on right under your nose, what might be considered the most controversially argued of all cocktail recipes.  Some feel strongly about who invented the drink.  On the other hand, there are others who just want to get along, sharing what they know, and only arguing in a constructive style of precise measurements in attempts to find the perfect work of art.  Authenticity is important.  It is like history.  Truth, it seems, can also shine as a spectrum, not necessarily rendered less authentic by examining the different levels, but what learned colors offer the purest form of light.  Opinion is not a truth.  If a person learns all there is about the facts, yet still feels one drink is better than the other, that is their opinion.  It can be disturbing for two groups of people to identify an object by a name, when that object is not one, but two.  So if both groups thinks their object is the only way life can exist, and both feel their voice is stronger, the shouting contest gets louder.

I admit, I feel strongly about the Mai Tai.  Regardless, are there different ways to make it?  Yes:  Two ways.  I could even suppose there are as many ways to make the Mai Tai as there are ingredients – just as long as you respect the originals.

Don the Beachcomber did not like his Mai Tai, at least not enough to keep it on the menu in his restaurants.  Also, Donn’s Mai Tai doesn’t taste anything like Vic’s.  Even though the two men’s drinks share a name, it’s the difference in ingredients that set them apart (obviously), and uniquely lift each to fame.  I’m not going to say what key ingredients make the difference, since every flavor does this.  But for me the major difference is between falernum and orgeat, both profiling their drink’s individualities, as well as how a small amount provides so much extravagance.  As far as rum, in Donn’s, either mixing Appleton Estate & Pusser’s, or instead of the navy-style rum – using demerara rum.  Either way, mixing these two kinds of rums offers great character.  One last thing about Donn’s Mai Tai, I add quarter ounce of simple syrup as a preference.

Don the Beachcomber's Mai Tai Swizzle (1933)
1 1/2 oz Appleton Estate rum
1 oz British navy-style rum 
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz falernum
1/2 oz Cointreau
6 drops of Absinthe (or Pernod)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with crushed ice, pour unstrained into chilled double old fashioned glass.  Garnish with mint and a pineapple spear.

Trader Vic‘s original was made with 17 year old Wray & Nephew rum, which a while back stopped production, and in effect caused a regeneration of the recipe.  The outcome was joining two specific flavors to call back what the extinct Wray & Nephew conjured – Jamaican and Martinique rums.  The Jamaican style of rum mixed with the agricole style causes a new flavor in its own, congratulating each other’s strengths.  Kind of radical in my opinion, but with the curaçao (koor-uh-sou) and orgeat (ȯr-zhä{t} – I’ve heard with and without the “t” sound…if anyone knows for sure, please let me know) smoothing them with sweetness, and the lime countering in favor of the rum – the distinct balance proves how worthy this drink deserves its reputation.

Trader Vic's Mai Tai (1944)
1 oz gold Martinique rum (Clément)
1 oz dark Jamaican rum (Smith & Cross)
1/2 oz curaçao
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
1/4 oz orgeat
2 cups crushed ice

Shake all ingredients, pour unstrained into chilled double old fashioned glass.  Garnish with spent lime shell and a sprig of mint.

Bottom line, why choose when you can have both?  And if you do like one better, give the other a chance, if not to win your affection, then at least your respect.  After all, both drinks are so refreshing.  Cheers.

Falernum

 

It is essentially a syrup with a robust flavor, not necessarily strong with alcohol even though the following recipe shows a version made this way.  I’ve heard it mostly goes with rum drinks, yet a buddy of mine swears by it with whiskey.  Like a syrup flavored with raspberry, or cinnamon, or mint, or anything you enjoy going in your cocktail, falernum is a rich combination of flavors mixed with simple syrup.  Understandably not as easy to make, I think it’s a lot of fun to make.  There again, I like making my own syrups.  If you want a gist of it, think of ginger, clove and allspice together, with suggestion of lime.  What is curious is how over-run the flavor of lime is, particularly after looking at how much lime zest is added.

I selected possibles from a number of recipes I’ve found.  My first attempt last year turned out such a success, I not only wanted to keep making the stuff, and making different recipes, but wanted to continue into experimenting, even in error.  So please don’t read only my recipe, but look around to find other recipes.

Falernum
6 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof
2 oz Lemon Hart 151
40 cloves (whole)
1 Tbsp Allspice berry (meaning not ground)
zest of 9 limes 
1/2 cup ginger (julienned)
14 oz simple syrup
10 drops almond extract

First, if you prefer to keep your overproofs single, go with the Wray & Nephew.  That’s how I did it last time.  I’ve been itching to try the combination since getting my first bottle of Lemon Hart (a thousand thank yous Watson).  Measure your spirits and pour into a wide-mouthed jar or bottle.  Please do not try to stuff the ingredients into a 750ml bottle only to find how difficult it would be to get it all out afterwards.

Toast the cloves and allspice over medium heat until fragrant.  It might help to get fresh spices, which only makes sense.  But at the moment I am not practicing common sense and using old spices, hoping the toasting will make up for the difference.

After tossing your warm spices into the jar, peel the skin off the ginger, chop the ginger julienne style (meaning thin sticks).  As you can see by the picture I sliced mine thin instead, my own experiment.  Every recipe I have ever read using ginger insists on julienning.

Either use a fine zester or a sharp peeler, get the green part of the skin off the limes.  The white part underneath is bitter, only the zest.  After your falernum is complete, you may want extra lime flavor, which many may, this is when you would add lime juice.  Please do not make your falernum with the juice of the lime.  It will lessen the lifespan, causing little black dots.  I don’t think I need to tell you what those little black dots would be, let alone what they’d do to you if you drank enough of them.  The zest is ample enough for a robust sense of lime, even though I truly understand the need for the freshness only the juice produces.  I typically add falernum to rum drinks anyway, and would add lime juice whether I was indulging in falernum or not.

Next, close the lid on your container and give it a good mixing before closing.  You’ll keep that lid on for 24 hours.  I haven’t heard of a need to refrigerate, so out of the sunlight is best, as long as the lid is on tightly.  Now it’s time to figure out what to do with all these peeled limes.

The next day, make the simple syrup, which is 2:1 sugar to water.  Actually that’s rock candy syrup.  Simple syrup is 1:1 sugar to water.  But in my house my syrup is thick, never thin.  At least that’s what Rule #43 says on my refrigerator.  After all the sugar is absorbed, and to the touch your syrup is room temperature (unless you made it cold process, which is with cold water), set the syrup aside.  Drain the day before’s ingredients through a fine mesh strainer, preferably through cheesecloth – something you can wring out all the possible flavors (even the last drop will improve the end result).  Discard the solids.  Mix into the syrup, and add the final touch:  10 drops of almond extract, gently stirring it in for bottling.

Then make your first drink.  And make it cold.  My first one will be a Mai Tai.  For those of you in camp Trader Vic, I enjoy your Mai Tai too.  It is an excellent drink.  I simply prefer Don the Beachcomber‘s, reserving any opinion into which drink came first.  As long as we are toasting, I genuinely don’t care.