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Punch & Rum

By Danielle Tatarin

I’ve drank many a cocktail in my days and nights as a bartender over the last sixteen years and I’ll admit, years before I was a bartender, Rum was the first alcoholic drink I tasted in the form of a “punch”.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, that punch was only a mere shadow of traditional punches.  It contained rum and fruit juices, the young drink mixer in me figured that this classified as a punch because that was what I heard from friends.  Although the ingredients were somewhat on the right track, the drink was sweet enough for my young pallet and I gave no thought to the history of the drink.  My friends and I enjoyed our bootlegged punch out of bottles by the creek before heading to the town fair.   Much later on, after officially becoming a bartender and diving in to learning about the history of spirits and cocktails, I was delighted to find out about the long history of rum and punch.  A lover of poetry and literature I found delight in finding old poems and notes containing glimpses into the past through the eyes of imbibers.


Punch can be said to be the predecessor of the cocktail.  Said to have roots in India with the word Punch stemming from the Hindustani word “Panch” which means five and refers to the bones of a proper punch: spirit, sugar, water or tea, citrus & spice.


Benjamin Franklin – 1737

From Poor Richard’s Almanack:


Boy, bring a bowl of China here,

Fill it with water cool and clear:

Decanter with Jamaica right,

And spoon of silver clean and bright,

Sugar twice-fin’d, in pieces cut,

Knife, Sieve and glass, in order put,

Bring forth the fragrant fruit, and then

We’re happy till the clock strikes ten.


Cotton Mather – 1757

Sent this letter with a box of lemons to his friend:


You know from Eastern India came

The skill of making punch as did the name.

The name consists of letters five,

By five ingredients its kept alive.

To purest water sugar must be joined,

With these the grateful acid is combined.

Some any sours they get contented use,

But men of taste do that from Tagus choose.

When now these three are mixed with care

Then added be of spirit a small share.

And that you may the drink quite perfect see,

Atop the musky nut must grated be.

Here is one of my modern versions of a punch:


Punch is Luck

2 oz Aged Caribbean Rum

½ oz Chamomile Honey Syrup (1part honey: 1 part chamomile tea)

½ oz Fresh Lemon

5 pineapple wedges

2 dashes cinnamon tincture

Muddle pineapple with honey & lemon. 

Add rum and tincture.  Shake all ingredients on ice.

Double strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with pineapple wedge on a skewer.

To finish top with freshly grated nutmeg.

~ Danielle Tatarin


“The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc”.

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