Monday, July 6, 2009

Some Planter's Punches

Recently, I spoke to Stephen Remsberg, the courtly New Orleans lawyer and rum collector. And whenever I think of Remsberg, I think of Planter's Punch, which he has called his favorite drink. I remember well a witty, and self-deprecating demonstration he once gave on how simple it was to built a glass of this tasty punch.

Over the past few evenings, I've tried a few version of the drink, which has as many interpretations as there are days in the year. I began with a recipe attributed to Dale DeGroff, then moved on to the Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide, publishing in 1972. Vic offered four different formulas, including two attributed to himself. Lastly I gave a whirl a version published by David Embury in 1948, republished in Wayne Curtis' book "A Bottle of Rum." Here are the recipes, and what I found.


1 oz. dark rum
1 oz. light rum
1/2 oz. curacao
2 oz. orange juice
2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 lime juice
1 dash grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients well with ice and strain into iced Collins glass. Top with small amount of soda. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.


1/2 lime
1 dash rock candy syrup
1 dash grenadine
1 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. dark Jamaica rum
2 oz. soda

Squeeze lime juice over ice cubes in a planter's punch glass; save lime shell. Add remaining ingredients. Stir. Decorate with lime shell, fresh mint, and a fruit stick.


3 oz. dark Jamaica rum
1/2 oz. grenadine
Juice of one lime
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon bar sugar

Stir all ingredients except soda thoroughly with ice cubes. Strain into a 12-ounce glass filled with shaved ice. Fill glass with soda. Stir gently.


3 oz. Jamaica rum
1 oz. sugar syrup
2 oz. lemon juice
2-3 dashes Angostura bitter

Shake the ingredients vigorously with crush ice and pour, without straining, into a tall glass. Pack the glass to the top with more crushed ice, fill to within one-half inch with soda water, then churn with a bar spoon until the glass starts to frost. Decorate with fruit.

DeGroff's punch is probably the outright tastiest. Irresistible, really. No surprise there, since, to Dale, a top priority is always that a drink should taste good. The addition of pineapple juice and curacao do the trick in spades.

Trader Vic's version No. 1 I found the most disappointing. An outright failure, actually. Much too much lemon juice, and too little sweetener, make this cocktail too acidic, while the meager measure of rum and too ample contribution of soda water down its impact.

Vic's version No. 2 is much better. More rum, more sweetener, less lemon juice—it's all to the good. And the additional grenadine give the drink a pleasing ruby hue.

Embury's I would call a classicist's Planter's Punch—nice and simple. The large dose of dark rum and 1 ounce of syrup easily take on the 2 ounces of lemon juice, and the hearty spurt of Angostura lends a nice edge. I'd put it up with DeGroff's in palatableness, though the taste profile is quite different. It also gets points for being terribly easy to make at home. But, really, all except Vic's No. 1 are worth a try.

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