Let’s get the name out of the way first. This most delicious yet simple drink hails from the French Caribbean island of Martinique and is an abbreviation of “petit punch” and should thus be correctly pronounced “Tee Pawn-sh“. Many websites will tell you that there is a little saying and ceremony that goes with this cocktail that goes along the lines of “each one prepares his own death” as the imbiber is traditionally provided with the rum, sugar and lime to make his own. But I won’t bother. Furthermore there is much discussion as to whether the ‘Ti Punch should be served warm or cold or made with sugar or syrup. Here at Proof we shall sweep away such pesky traditionality and simply make the tastiest version we can. But we can’t do that without talking a little bit about the rum…
A ‘Ti Punch isn’t a ‘Ti Punch unless it uses rhum agricole which is style of rum that comes from a few small French Caribbean islands. Strictly speaking from Martinique but I won’t bust your chops if you use one from Guadalupe or Haiti. Furthermore the rum label should state “rhum agricole”*. The diff is that this style of rum is made from pressed sugar cane juice rather than the usual molasses** and – as you might imagine – is quite different as a result. Agricole rum tends to have a grassier presentation, eschews additives (especially sugar) and leans much more in a whisky/cognac direction than most other rums. Good ones can get pretty pricey but I’ve a rec for you that is both affordable and tres, tres délicieuse. Clément Select Barrel (pictured) is certainly a little less sophisticated than the much vaunted Clément VSOP but I like its up-front, in-ya-face agricole flavours especially in a Mai Tai or, ultimately, right here in the Grand-Daddy of all agricocktails.
There is a Martiniquan adage that your ‘Ti Punch should be made with unaged (blanc) agricole before sunset and aged (vieux) after and frankly I’m cool with that but beyond that I’m gonna get a bit controversial here and treat the ‘Ti Punch more as an Old Fashioned variation and stir it with ice. First up we need to deal with the lime which we prepare in a most unorthodox (yet simple) way. Take a nice slightly unripe (ie. still mostly green and bumpy***) lime and cut a slice off the side as shown in the picture. You want to acquire a circle of peel but with a significant amount of flesh under it. To be clear this just about the only time you should ever cut a lime in this way. In an iced mixing glass or tin add the rum and syrup the gently squeeze your lime disc over it. You’re not looking to get a lot of juice here as we’re not trying to make a Daiquiri. Keep the lime disc aside for now. Stir well for about 40 seconds and strain into a chilled glass. Now drop your lime disc in where the oils released during the squeeze can free themselves. The goal is to create a drink where the rhum remains the star but is enhanced ever so slightly by a little lime and sugar. The trick of the ‘Ti Punch is getting the syrup and lime in perfect balance for your own particular taste and as always, you’ll definitely know when you’ve got it right. À ta santé!
2oz/60ml Rhum Agricole (take your pick but I pick Clement Select Barrel).
1 teaspoon/5ml demerara syrup (or better yet, cane sugar syrup).
One disc of lime (see text).
Preparation – see text above.
Toast the people at Clément who take their rhum seriously and their ‘Ti Punches far too sweet…
* Unless it’s from Haiti where rums are made in an agricoley way but without such a statement.
**A by-product of sugar production.
***The one in the picture is a little more ripe than I’d have liked but I couldn’t be arsed to go back to the supermarket.