In Martinique, and later in Guadeloupe, the Island Runaways discovered a simple rum drink that quickly became one of our favorite island cocktails of all time. It’s called Ti Punch. Ti is short for “petit” or little in French Kreyol, and in fact this mixture generally comes in a short, small glass. You could say it’s the signature drink of the French Antilles. Yes, there’s also Planter’s Punch, concocted of rum and tropical juices, but Ti Punch seemed to capture the essence of the Caribbean.
(A bottle of white "rhum" from Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe)
For hundreds of years, rum, sugarcane, and limes have been produced in abundance in the tropical West Indies, and along the way, folks invented this simple cocktail. Why change it? The simplicity of the drink is pure genius.
Ti Punch is formulated with white rum, rather than golden rum. Zickie and I don’t typically drink much white rum, preferring the mellower flavor of its darker cousin, but Ti Punch totally won our hearts – and our tastebuds. First, we ordered it in bars, like New Cap in Le Diamant, Martinique, or at the Fort Langley Hotel in Basse Terre, Guadeloupe; then we bought some white rum and made it for ourselves.
Not only is the recipe insanely easy, it’s also a relatively inexpensive rum drink. White rum is not aged in the same kind of charred barrels as golden rum (but in either steel tanks or regular oak barrels) so it’s faster and thus cheaper to produce. At 80 proof, this rum packs a serious punch. (Pun intended!)
(Ti Punch means "little punch," in French. The glass is generally small like this one.)
One caveat: to make a 100% authentic French Caribbean Ti Punch, you'll need white “rhum” not “rum.” In the French islands, they make rhum directly from the sugarcane juice instead of from molasses (like most other rums in the world). Rhum, whether it’s a white or golden hue, tastes truly delicious. In our photo, we're using Rhum Bielle from Marie-Galante in Guadeloupe. Zickie has also mixed Ti Punches with Canne Bleue from Rhum Clément in Martinique.
Unfortunately, white "rhum" can be a bit difficult to find or somewhat expensive in the United States. Barbancourt white rhum, produced in Haiti, is carried in many liquor stores, for about $15-18 a bottle. On the other hand, if you absolutely can’t find white rhum, you can always a Caribbean white rum. Keep it mind the resulting drink will taste slightly different from the Ti Punches of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Recipe for a Ti Punch
1-2 ounces white rhum or rum
½ Lime, squeezed
1-3 spoonfuls of sugar
Directions: Put a spoonful of sugar into a small glass. Cut the lime into small pieces and squeeze out the juice. Stir so that the sugar dissolves. Leave the squeezed lime portions in your glass. Then add your rum. Stir again. Taste. Now, if you’d like it sweeter, add another spoonful of sugar. If you’d like it cooler, add an ice cube. The beauty of a Ti Punch made at home is that the drinker can adjust the ingredients to his or her own tastes.
Variations: Some folks use sugar cane syrup (which is not the same thing as simple syrup) instead of sugar. We’ve also seen people use unrefined brown sugar in Ti Punch. Some folks think using ice cubes is blasphemy, while other appreciate the fact that in a hot climate, sometimes you want a cold drink. As far as we’re concerned, we think it’s important to make a drink that YOU like! So experiment a little, and please yourself.
(Limes are one of the three ingredients of Ti Punch.)
In the French Caribbean, you might have one or possibly two small Ti Punches before dinner as an "apéritif." It whets the appetite without filling you up. If you mix up a Ti Punch for yourself, let us know how it comes out. And whether you used "rhum" or rum!