Sure, we love our rum-and-ting here in Jamaica, but we can’t deny our devotion for another island staple: Rum Punch. (Don’t even ask us to pick a favorite.) Can you even imagine a languid beach day in paradise without a cold glass of spiced punch?
Every island has a variation, but the classic West Indies recipe has been passed on by generation after generation with a rhyme. “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.”
One of sour – Lime
Two of sweet – Sugar
Three of strong – Jamaican rum
Four of weak – Water or ice
You will find different punches throughout Jamaica. At Three Dives Jerk Centre in Negril, the Caribbean cocktail is a pink hue similar to a blooming honeysuckle flower, and tastes almost like fruit punch—but is definitely not fruit punch! While at Pantrepant Farm, the fabled rum punch is the color of a honeydew melon and is made from a recipe that only few are privy to. (It’s Chris Blackwell’s secret recipe!) And, yet there’s that something that no matter if you’re drinking a Jamaican rum punch on beach in Ochi or at a bar in New York City, it tastes familiar. It tastes like Jamaica.
So, today we’re off to experience a taste of Jamaica…in New York City.
The Make-It-Yourself Rum Punch at Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe
“When you think of Jamaica, you think of rum punch.” —Jermaine Holliway, Manager, Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe
As if you needed any more reasons to head to Miss Lily’s 7A, the popular restaurant just started serving a new lunch menu, and an all-day happy hour from noon to 7pm (rum punch is just $7). When you walk into the Jamaican-inspired restaurant in the East Village, you are immediately swooped back to the Caribbean island on a tiny jet plane in your imagination. A disco ball welcomes you, as does the host who whisks you to a seat at the colorful marble bar top (complete with army fatigue-cushioned bar stools) or one of the plush vinyl booths. The clashing mixed patterns throughout the restaurant are reminiscent of your favorite local Jamaican shacks, and the decor—checkered ceilings with rainbow colored steel bars, vinyl decals on the walls and fruit baskets sitting atop the bar—suggests you have landed at a real-deal Jamaican diner.
Behind the bar is bartender Cass Hyppolite, who whips up Miss Lily’s extremely popular rum punch. Simple enough to make at home, Cass says Miss Lily’s Rum Punch “tastes like summer.”
1 to 1 ½ ounces overproof rum, Wray & Nephew if possible
1 ½ ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 ½ ounce cranberry juice
1 ½ ounce pineapple juice
One brandied cherry
One mint sprig
Two small slices fresh pineapple
Mix 1 to 1 ½ ounces Wray + Nephew overproof with equal parts fresh squeezed orange juice, cranberry juice and pineapple juice. Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a glass. Drop in a brandied cherry, and garnish with a mint sprig and fresh cut pineapple.
Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe: 109 Avenue A at 7th St.; 212-812-1482.
The Tastes-Like-Summer Rum Punch at Spur Tree
“When’s the perfect time to drink a rum punch? Any time.” Pedro Andrade, Barkeep, Spur Tree
Spur Tree, a Jamaican-Asian fusion restaurant on the Lower East Side, is a hidden oasis of Jamaican culture. Plants painted along the walls make for a very island-like atmosphere in the restaurant. Spur Tree is named after a town in Jamaica—Spur Tree Hills—where the view is spectacular. Sean John—no, not that Sean John—is the owner and executive chef. As a Jamaican himself, John is proud of his innovative fusion menu, inspired by his travels around the globe. The Asian-inspired, Jamaica-grounded menu includes unique dishes like Red Stripe beer-battered shrimp tempura and traditional brown stew chicken. Jamaican-Asian fusion might sound odd, but trust us, it’s actually really good.
While John is red wine connoisseur himself, he knows that rum punch is a necessity at any Jamaican restaurant. John was introduced to Blackwell Rum by a friend many years ago, he found it to be perfect for a rum punch—complete coincidence, we promise. When asked to describe the rum punch served at Spur Tree, John simply says: Jamaica. (We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.) Bartender Pedro Andrade prepares the drink to order, with plenty of fresh lime juice to temper the sweetness. Whether you’re at a pool party in your backyard, or in New York City, Andrade has one piece of advice for you this summer: You ought to be drinking a rum punch.
1 ½ ounces of Blackwell Rum
1 ½ ounces of orange juice
1 ½ ounce of pineapple juice
¼ ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice
Add the Blackwell Rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and fresh squeezed lime juice into a mixer with ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Add a dash of grenadine for color and sweetness. Finish by garnishing rum punch with mint leaf, orange slice and fresh ginger for a zesty zing.
Spur Tree: 74 Orchard St.; 646-481-1229
The Unexpected Rum Punch at The Shanty
“When you taste this, you’ll want to be in Jamaica on a beach.” —Nathan Dumas, Mixologist, The Shanty
On an unassuming block in Williamsburg lined with two-story homes, you’ll find this modern-day saloon nestled inside a distillery. The cozy, industrial bar is a far cry from the colorful rum shacks of Jamaica. However, one sip of the “Shantytown Rum Punch” and we promise you’ll start seeing palm trees. Mixologist Nathan Dumas created the special summer menu item with an unexpected base: loose-leaf Rooibus tea. With hints of guava, Dumas says the South African decaffeinated tea is “a sort of a natural, fun choice for a tropical drink.” Rich, complex, fruity, with mild hints of cinnamon and guava, the Shantytown Rum Punch tastes, as Dumas put it, like “Jamaican rum funk.”
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple sugar syrup
2 ounces Rooibus tea
1 ounce Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye
1 ¼ ounces Jamaican Rum
This recipe calls for chilled rooibus tea, so be sure to prepare the tea before you begin the process. Mix the fresh-squeezed lime juice with simple sugar syrup, Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye and Jamaican rum. (Mixologist Nathan Dumas uses Appleton Estate rum at The Shanty, but says any Jamaican rum will do the trick.) Place the chilled roobius tea into a serving glass. Next, shake your mixture of lime juice, simple sugar, Rock & Rye and Jamaican rum. Once you’ve given the cocktail a firm shake, strain into glass with chilled tea. Garnish with nutmeg, lime wheel and an edible flower if available.
The Shanty: 79 Richardson St., Brooklyn; 718-412-0874.