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Rum Punch

The rum punch flowed freely at two events I attended last week. And as I sipped my third glass at the most recent – a birthday party for a long time family friend – I got to wondering about the history of this popular concoction.

According to Wikipedia, punch has been around for centuries. Seventeenth-century Royal Navy sailors who were used to receiving daily beer rations brought it back to England from India.

Wine or brandy was used until around 1655, when Jamaican rum became the fashionable spirit and a new flavor of punch was created. (Rum also replaced beer and the daily ration became known as the rum ration. The rum ration continued until the 1970s.)

Rum Punch

Calico Jack Rum Punch

From England, the use of punch expanded to other European countries and eventually, naturally, to the colonies.

Ask most Jamaicans how to make rum punch and you’re likely to be given the following direction: One of sour (lime juice), two of sweet (syrup), three of strong (Wray & Nephew Overproof rum), four of weak (water) – simple enough, right? You’ll also see this direction is the description of Planter’s Punch, a type of rum punch that apparently, was created in Jamaica.

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.
– From the September 1878 issue of the London magazine, Fun.

Just goes to show, there’s a story behind even the simplest food or drink.

Even with a recipe as simple as this, in my opinion, it takes a certain level of skill, and perhaps experience, to mix these four ingredients, to balance them so one doesn’t dominate the other.

Although it can last for several months after it’s been made (and usually tastes richer), we usually make it from scratch for each occasion, and most people I know wouldn’t even touch the prepared stuff.

I didn’t until my neighbor introduced me to Calico Jack Rum Punch. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the closest there is to the real thing. I served it at a dinner party last Christmas and even my finicky aunt (who knows a thing or two about making rum punch) agreed that it was good. Unfortunately, I have not found it outside Jamaica.

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