We marked this blessed day on the Rum & Biscuits calendar weeks ago, and still had to move mountains to bring it to you in the nick of time. With any luck, a long sip from this delicious Cali-punch will have you just as irresponsible as us!
Rum punch originated during the 17th and 18th centuries, as European sea merchants and navies began adopting spirits for their ration of choice when beer and wine would spoil during their equatorial forays. The addition of citrus, fruit juice, and other liquids were made not just to cut the rum, but to extend it, and fortify it with vitamins for scurvy-ravaged sailors. Spices were added as well to help with the flavor.
The classic rum punch formula, like most good things, is typically recalled with a rhyme: one sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak. That gave us just enough room to play.
For sour – typically lemon or lime – we were actually drawn to local grapefruit, having been recently served a ridiculously delicious dealer’s choice Tiki drink with homemade grapefruit syrup by the talented bar staff at The Tasting Kitchen. Pro tip, though: if you google “California grapefruit” you will be directed to whole different type of party.
For sweet, we had passion fruit on the brain, as we always do. For us, it’s such a pure sweet fruit flavor – with the sugar level of pineapple, but none of the tartness. Back east, it was easy to find great passion fruit juice from Goya, which would still be my reco for this, but in Cali the sweet stuff is hard to find. I was lucky to find some at Vons from by the Sun Berry brand. We also leveraged the rum punch perennial sweetener of grenadine to add a pop of sweetness and color.
For strong, we wanted to finally play with some California-produced rum! We tried Calivore blonde rum (of San Luis Obispo) first, but it was L.A. county’s own Greenbar and their Crusoe spiced rum that really did the trick, and it makes sense. Classic punches often incorporated warm spices like nutmeg, and the Crusoe boasts nutmeg notes, along with vanilla, cloves, and half a dozen others. Smooth enough to sip straight, believe it or not. Like a pumpkin spice latte without the self-loathing.
Most commonly, water is the ingredient that provides the “weak” conclusion to the rum punch formula, which we at Rum & Biscuits thought was precisely that: a weak conclusion. At the same time, we didn’t want to throw off the sweet-sour balance with a base that fell too much in either camp.
Fortunately, some Whole Foods and specialty stores carry a brand called “Hint,” which offers unsweetened flavored waters, with “essence” of things like blackberry, pomegranate, or strawberry kiwi that work perfectly in this instance – discernible flavor without the sugar. We used blackberry for ours, because you can take the blog out of Oregon, but you can’t take…you know how it goes. Other unsweetened flavored waters could work as well, particularly if you could get your hands on a vanilla to bring out those flavors from the rum. We’d love to try a maple water, too, but it’s off-brief for today.
Lastly, as a final nod to our new home state, we opted to add a splash of orgeat. It’s an almond syrup common in many classic tiki drinks like the Junglebird, and while the syrup itself is not Californian, almonds certainly are. As are tiki drinks. You could almost describe the effect as shifting the drink from a fruit flavor to a fruit pie flavor. It’s delicious, and of course works excellently with the “pie spices” already embedded in the rum.
The end result is refreshing, dangerously smooth cocktail that smacks of grapefruit and cherry, with an easy undercurrent of baking spices and tropical fruit. A smooth Cali way to ring in National Rum Punch Day!
P.S. – if you’re like, didn’t this day JUST happen, why Rum & Biscuits so lush? You may be recounting National Rum Day, (August 16) which you’re damn right we celebrated. Different day. I know, right? Bacardi is laugh-crying on their beach towels made of money as we speak.
California Rum Punch Recipe
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 1 oz passion fruit juice
- 1 oz grenadine
- 3 oz Crusoe Spiced Rum
- 4 oz Hint blackberry infused water
- Optional: splash of orgeat
1. Combine juices, grenadine, rum and water together in cocktail shaker
2. Shake well and strain over crushed ice
Optional: add a splash of orgeat, garnish with umbrella. And enjoy!