‘Simple’ Bajan Rum Punch

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You do not have to come from an island, nor visit one, to be able to make rum punch. Anyone can make it, including my Canadian husband. It’s not rocket science: it’s a simple ratio. 1 of sour, 2 of sweet, 3 of strong, 4 of weak. The challenge lies in the fact that not everyone can make a ‘proper’ rum punch as we would say back home. The fact that my husband can is our little joke since I am the one from Barbados. Sure I can squeeze limes and make simple syrup but I let him take care of the mixology. I just love drinking them. Call me an islan’ girl.

Now there are many theories on what makes a for a great rum punch. I have been told that  my Jamaican grandfather, Papa, used to peel the skin off all the tiny local limes before squeezing them to avoid any sharp limey aftertaste. He would also hide vodka in it for an extra punch. My younger sister likes to freeze her mixed rum punch in a large empty pop bottle to make it into a slush before serving. It’s tart and delicious. My older sister has a different simple syrup recipe. I know another Bajan who believes you should make it with brown sugar, preferably from Barbados. Not so easy to find off the rock. I know a few clever Bajans, who feel that the ‘weak’ just means ice. This is similar to my husband who believes all you need is 1 of sour, 2 of sweet, 3 of strong, forget the weak. Regardless of the recipe you believe in, it is common ground that you have to drink this on the rocks. To be clear, not the rocks in the picture with my limes.

This recipe is inspired by my Jamaican cousin who makes up a batch of just the sour and sweet mix to keep in the fridge. It lasts a long time unless you are having a party or are sitting on a dock at a cottage.

proper bajan rum punch by loopylocks

‘simple’ bajan rum punch by loopylocks

If you are reading this and have connections to a different island, I know you have your own set of rules for making your own punches. That’s cool. Listen, a Bajan Rum Punch would not be the same without some Trini bitters and I will be the first to admit it. Having said that, I am not of the inclination that anyone should make a rum punch by adding anything like grenadine syrup, orange juice or pineapple juice. No disrespect. It’s just, well, not a proper Bajan Rum Punch. This drink is way too basic for that. The only concession I will make is if you decide to replace the weak (i.e. water) with coconut water. While it may be a sin for some, it makes for a sinfully smooth cocktail.

“Simple Bajan Rum Punch” by loopylocks
Makes a big batch to cheer a crowd*

Ingredients:

Part 1 – make the lime juice mixer
12-15 fresh limes, squeezed with the pulp
2 cups granulated white sugar dissolved in 2 cups water (simple syrup)

Part 2 – diy your own simple bajan rum punch with
dark rum
lime juice mixer
water (or coconut water)
fresh grated nutmeg
a few splashes of Angostura Bitters
ice (lots and lots of it)

* If you do not wish to make quite this much, read through the recipe and adjust to suit. Since the drink is based on a ratio, you can make any amount that your liver can handle. 

Directions:

part 1 – make the lime juice mixer

Please, I beg you… only use fresh limes. Nothing else. No matter how hard you would like to, you simply cannot make rum punch with artificial lime juice. It does not matter if the bottle has the word “real” anywhere on the label. Trust me I have tried. I once experimented using real, organic, cold-pressed, lime juice, not from concentrate, that I picked up from my local grocery store in Toronto. The label made perfect sense. The taste? Not so proper.

Since you need to go get the limes from a store, I reckon a dozen is a good place to begin. Any extras can be used as a garnish. Mine pictured here are from Mexico. Sure they could be Bajan. But you know what, they are good enough. I was able to get 1 1/4 cups of lime juice.

The sweet comes from simple syrup. Sounds simple because it is. As this is a DIY cocktail, your best is to make your own. Store bought simple syrup has a sweeter, thicker consistency. I personally find it a bit too sweet. I prefer white sugar even though you can make it with brown sugar. Most brown sugars today basically just have molasses added to them. They are no more natural or pure. Just coloured. Adding colour comes later, with the bitters.

How much to make? It depends. I always decide how much simple syrup to make after I have squeezed and measured the lime juice. I needed 2 1/2 cups of simple syrup to the 1 1/4 cups of lime juice. I elected to make 2 cups of sugar to 2 cups of water. That made 3 1/2 cups of simple syrup. The extra syrup I put up for another time. Not a problem. It keeps well in the fridge.

Microwave method (I used for less cleanup): Cook time – 2  1/2 minutes. In a glass jug, heat the mixture on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir with a fork. Heat again for another minute. Stir again. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir. (depending on your microwave you may need more or less time). As long as your solution is free of granules and clear then you are good to go.

Stovetop method: In a small pot, over medium, heat the sugar water solution just long enough until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. This only take a few minutes. Stir until dissolved and remove from the heat immediately to cool.

This part is important. Simple syrup must be cool before adding to the lime juice or it can make the limes taste bitter. Been there. Done that. To quicken the process you can put it in the fridge. Use a funnel and combine the lime juice with the simple syrup into a jug that can be stored in the fridge. Remember to always shake this before using as the sweetness settles and while you won’t notice it in the beginning, when you get to the bottom of the bottle, you will notice your rum punch is not as tart as you remember. I like these inexpensive KORKEN glass bottles from IKEA that are under $4:

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lime juice mixer

part 2 –diy your own simple bajan rum punch

If you do not put the rum in rum punch, all you get is limeade once you add water. Delicious on a hot summer day for you and your kids but definitely not the liquid gold I am trying to teach you about.

Everyone has a favourite rum. First things first. We are talking about dark rum. Not the clear rubbing alcohol white rum that no one should ever drink. Ever. I will also never ever endorse the use of Bacardi rum. Just saying. If you are not on an island reading this, say Canada, to make this easy, see what your local liquor store has to offer. I personally like Mount Gay Extra Old. I know it is pricier but you pay for quality. If I was in Barbados, I might use a less expensive rum like Old Brigand, or Cockspur’s Old Gold Special Reserve. The choice is yours. El Dorado makes a cheaper rum that is sold in Canada if you want to experiment. If you cheat and settle for a mediocre rum, that’s ok too. You will have made yourself a mediocre rum punch. Your call. And listen, after a few, they all taste good!

And what of the weak? Water and ice. Sometimes we switch out the water for coconut water. When in Barbados, there is nothing quite like it.

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Fresh coconut water being harvested by ‘Anthony’. Barbados. 2009.

However, if you are not on the rock, buy only a good quality brand. It makes the rum punch super smooth. The key is that it has to be natural and unsweetened.

Every rum punch needs nutmeg and bitters. Not everyone can find fresh nutmeg so if you need to use the pre-grated nutmeg, it will be OK. Not proper. But again, good enough. You cannot skimp on bitters though. I find it ironic that even though it is loaded with over 45% alcohol, most supermarkets carry it in Toronto as opposed to the LCBO. Same aisle as the soft drinks at the end where you find specialty drinks, mixers and non-alcoholic beverages. It’s under $10. It also stains terribly so be easy when adding to drinks and wipe spills asap. It gives the rum punch that gorgeous amber colour I was telling you about instead of using brown sugar. Has quite a history of herbal healing. So does rum punch… makes your heart feel extra sweet and special.

And here is the part you have been so patiently waiting for. But before we get there, let me just confess that I have always been terrible at maths. That’s why my husband makes this drink. He explained that since you already put the 1 part sour and 2 parts sweet together, you now have 3 parts. The same 3 parts as the strong that the drink requires. So from this point in the mixology cycle, we are talking about and even (1:1) ratio between the sour/sweet concoction to the strong rum. The remaining room in your glass will dictate the  water you will end up using. It ends up being roughly a trio of 1:1:1. True to those clever Bajans I mentioned earlier, I happen to agree that some of the weak should come from the ice.

Without further ado

  1. In an 8 ounce rocks glass, fill to the brim with ice.
  2. Add 4-6 shakes of the bitters and freshly grated nutmeg.
  3. Add 1 1/4 ounces of dark rum.
  4. Pour 1 1/4 ounces of the lime juice mixer. (Shake lime mix first).
  5. Add 1 1/4 ounces water until you get to just under the top of the glass. Stir well.

I personally prefer a standard rocks glass. Part of the enjoyment of this drink is in the vessel. To each his/her own. You quickly learn that you can make a strong or “weak one” based on how much water you add. Stir well and taste it. If it tastes watery, add either a splash more of the lime juice mixer or rum or both.

a proper bajan rum punch

‘simple’ bajan rum punch by loopylocks

And there you have it. Who needs dinner when you can have this? Best served in pairs. I wish I could add a slice of lime but I used it all to make the lime juice mixer. Note to self for next time.  Sorry it isn’t more fancy but like I said, it is a pretty basic drink. The key to simple living. Cheers!

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