A Washington, D.C. newspaper in 1903 gives a recipe for Planter’s Punch which is both simple and very good. This has to be one of the older references to the drink in the U.S., perhaps the oldest.
It seems to us that rum, even very good rum, is one of those drinks best mixed.* We used our current supply of Newfoundland Screech or Myer’s Rum to good advantage in this recipe:
The Creole receipt for this delicious drink is given in the following ancient doggerel: –
“One of sour.
One of sweet.
Two of strong,
And one of weak.”
This means that the juice of one lime must be squeezed into a glass and mixed with one dessertspoonful of sugar. Next, two tablespoonfuls of old Jamaica rum must be put in the glass, and the glass then filled with ice water. A little nutmeg should be grated over the top, and a thin slice of lime float on the surface. This makes a very delicious and refreshing drink, and it is not strong in spite of the rum. Jamaican planters say that when a man has once tasted this punch he will never want to drink anything else.
The detailed part of the recipe seems to diverge from the ditty formula, as a glass is filled with ice water. Even a small glass would mean more than one measure of “weak”, water or ice, is used. Many such formulas require three, or four, of the weak. In the end, it’s personal to the maker, the directions are a guide, not more. But to keep to what may be an original method, I would stick to the four ingredients, lemon or lime, sugar, rum, water/ice.
(In fact the one of weak means it`s similar to the Saint-Martin ponche, i.e., a short strong drink. Maybe the newspaper`s editor turned it into a more friendly drink for a time when Prohibition was looming).
Some punches of the Caribbean use new overproof rum (Barbados, Trinidad), some various fruit juices, some abjure ice (the said Saint-Martin ‘tit ponche), the variations are countless. Simple is sometimes best, though.
*Rum is a very large subject and we would not wish to be categorical. Certainly the best Guyana rums, El Dorado is the name we know, are very good snifter rums. But the complexity of a fine whisky or brandy seems to elude most rum, in our experience.