(makes 1 litre/34 fl . oz.)
Start by brewing the tea (nice and strong) and while it cools, dissolve the sugar and salt into it. Juice your citrus fruits, strain out the pulp, and mix it with the rum. Once the tea has cooled, mix everything together, pop it in a bottle, and leave in the fridge until needed (it will keep for up to two weeks). Simply pour over ice cubes to serve.
Punches pre-date cocktails by at least 200 years and form the basis of the sour and fizz cocktail families.
Some punches are quite specific in their recipes, while others are a touch more conceptual; Planter’s Punch certainly falls into the latter category. It’s been known as “Jamaican Rum Punch” in The Savoy Cocktail Book and referred to as “Creole Punch” by the British novelist Alec Waugh, and it probably started its life as a mixture of pot-still rum, citrus, sugar and water.
Nowadays it’s not uncommon to find folk adding liqueurs, grenadine, orange juice or passion fruit to a Planter’s Punch. On this one occasion I would advocate a carte-blanche approach to your punchmaking.
So long as you stick by the classic ratio of “two of sour, one of sweet, three of strong (rum) and four of weak,” you pretty much can’t go wrong.
You’ll know if it’s worked, because you’ll experience an irrepressible desire to go back for a second or third glass. This is the whole point of punch – a convivial drink that would look absurd if served in a large glass, but positively tragic if offered only once and in a small quantity. Of course, the effect might not be instantaneous, as writer Patrick Chamoiseau reminds us: “a rum punch takes a good six hours to penetrate the soul. Six hours, between the midday punch that wards off the sun’s madness and the push before your evening soup, the commander of your dreams.”
In the past, punches were made with a type of sugar known as “loaf sugar”, which was named for the fact that you bought it in tall loaves that look a bit like missile warheads. The shape was on account of the earthenware moulds into which the molten sugar was poured for setting. Loaf sugar was graded for quality, with white stuff (not dissimilar to our modern-day table sugar) reserved only for the well-off. Most folks could only afford a loaf that sat somewhere in the realms of light muscovado or Demerara sugar, which was no bad thing as far as the punch bowl was concerned, because these sugars offered up flavour as well as sweetness.
As for the rum itself, this is not the occasion to shy away from flavour. Punch and rum co-existed in an age of British pot-still liquid stink. A slight “grottiness” to your punch therefore only heightens the authenticity of the beverage.