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EST. 2010

Friday Happy Hour: Ti’ Punch, The More Practical Hurricane Season Cocktail

Ti’ Punch as enjoyed by me at Ti’ Sable, Martinique/SBPR

The time was the mid-1940’s. The place: New Orleans. The problem: too much rum. The solution, as devised by legendary barkeep Pat O’Brien, was The Hurricane, a tempestuously sweet tipple combining several different types of rum, fruit juices and copious amounts of the one ingredient that absolutely makes it unsuitable for consumption if you’re ever so unlucky to actually find yourself summarily put out by its namesake tropical cyclone: ice.

Indeed, if you’ve ever been through a hurricane then you know that ice is virtually impossible to find once the winds have calmed and it’s time for a stiff drink. Better to opt for something simpler that still packs a punch.

My suggestion: Le Ti’ Punch.

Arguably the most popular drink throughout all of the French West Indies, the Ti’ Punch is a triumph of simplicity, combining just three ingredients – sugar syrup, white rhum agricole and lime – with a spirit of joie de vivre that would no doubt make picking up post-storm pieces a little easier.

I got my first taste of Ti’ Punch during my first trip to Martinique six years ago. I must admit, I wasn’t a fan. It was just so harsh and intensely sweet that I couldn’t get right with it. I wanted to smooth it out with some ice, but my sage Martinique friends wouldn’t allow it.

Now, some years later, having developed a deeper appreciation for rhum agricole, I’m glad they steered me right.

Ice would surely only work to change the Ti’ Punch character – bold and beautifully uncompromising like the islands in which it’s enjoyed – creating something altogether different, and probably less interesting.

For me, now, there’s nothing quite so enjoyable as the taste of a Ti’ Punch in Martinique. Rest assured that when you visit, you’ll find it easy to get a taste of ’em there too. That’s because Ti’ Punch is generally served, or offered before any meal in Martinique not named breakfast. It’s traditionally enjoyed as an apéritif, though no one will frown if you order, or mix one up virtually any time of the day.

This brings me to another neat tradition about the Ti’ Punch: often, when you order one at a bar or restaurant, your server will first give you the option of making one yourself before mixing it for you. I guess it’s because people can be particular about how their Ti’ Punch is made, which is somewhat remarkable considering the little that goes into making ’em.

So, how can you mix one up for yourself? Here’s all you need to do…

Grab a small glass. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water). Squeeze a small slice of fresh lime, then add a measure of rum to your taste. (I generally go for a one part sugar syrup and lime to two parts rum mix, but I’ll leave the experimenting to find your own, personal flavor balance up to you.) Stir it all up, preferably with a bois le le, and voilà!

The strength of this mighty-mite may take some getting used to, but it sure beats waiting on ice under trying circumstances…

À votre santé!

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