Back in the day, punches were very large concoctions. In Jerry Thomas’s first edition of The Bartender’s Guide, many of his punch recipes made gallons of punch. Men of leisure would sit at their clubs and spend hours drinking from the punch bowl and discussing whatever it was needed discussion. Many pages could be devoted to the talk of the great punches of yore, all but lost in the annals of time: Fish House Punch; Cape Feare Punch; Regent’s Punch. However, they will have to wait for their own post. In this space, I endeavor to discuss the Planter’s Punch.
There is always a debate about the origin of popular drinks. Usually, all of the claimants have a very similar recipe and it is a matter of date verification to determine the winner, if any. Not so with the Planter’s Punch. Instead of a list of a standard recipe, this drink can be traced to a poem:
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”
— New York Times, August 8, 1908
Not very specific, but a blueprint for a beverage that would spawn thousands of variations. An earlier reference can be found via Google books, and entry in a 1878 edition of a London magazine called Fun, though it doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the popular literature on the subject of rum. Many have laid claim to the invention, including two Planter’s Hotels, one in St. Louis, the other in South Carolina, both now defunct. The St. Louis claimant uses their relationship with the aforementioned Mr. Thomas as further verification of their boast. [Curtis 2007] However, Thomas never published a Planter’s Punch recipe. Curious.
Of the pleathora of available mixtures, I have decided to go with Jasper LaFranc’s [Haigh 2009] The bartender at the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay, Jasper concocted a Planter’s Punch that caught the palate of Steve Remsberg(PDF), the foremost collector of rum in the world. After some sweet talking, Remsberg acquired the entire recipe from the barkeep.
Jasper’s Jamaican Planter’s Punch
1.5oz dark rum
1.5oz Jasper’s Secret Mix
Combine in a highball glass filled with cracked ice. Stir vigorously and top off with more ice.
Jasper’s Secret Mix
Juice of 12 limes (about 12oz)
1.5 C sugar
1.25 oz Angostura bitters
1/2 whole nutmeg, grated (about 1/2 T)
Stir ingredients together until sugar dissolves. Let sit in the fridge at least two hours.
Now that makes a lot of secret mix, some rough math gets us this smaller version:
3oz lime juice
1/3 C sugar
1/3 oz Angostura bitters
3/8 tsp grated nutmeg