16 Mar Celebrate National Ti’Punch Day with a Spiribam R(h)um Ti’Punch
Imagine sitting on a sandy beach looking at the blue water of Caribbean Sea under the warm sun on the French West Indies island of Martinique while sipping a small punch, otherwise known as a Ti Punch (pronounced “tee pauncchh”). Similar to a daiquiri, or even a caipirinha, a Ti Punch is the national drink of Martinique.
A classic Ti’Punch is quite simple as it is a mixture of rhum agricole, lime, and sugar. What is unique about a Ti Punch is that is made with rhum agricole which is made from sugar cane juice, not molasses. In addition, Martiniuqe has an AOC for rhum agricole that maintains certain standards, such as specific sugar cane varieties, one distillation, 65%-75% ABV, and a minimum of three years to be called “aged”.
The first known mention of the Ti’Punch was in 1887 in Lafcadio Hearn’s book “Two Years In the French West Indies.” This was the same year Homère Clément purchased the Rhum Clément estate (known then as Domaine de l’Acajou).
Rhum Clément is part of Spiribaum, which is run by Ben Jones, a descendent of Rhum Clément founder, Homère Clément, and an authority on all things R(h)um. With his mother from Martinique, the French Caribbean culture has always been a part of Ben’s life. In 2005, after working with different spirits, Ben brought Rhum Clement to the US. Today there are two distilleries in Martinique. Rhum Clement comes from the southernmost part of the island and Rhum JM comes from the northernmost part of the island. Ben’s mission, along with Kiowa Bryan, the National Brand Manager and R(h)um Princess of Los Angeles, is to teach others about Ti Punch.
While the ingredients for a Ti Punch are simple, the rest is open to interpretation. There is no official recipe and there are no rules. The proportions of rhum agricole, lime, and sugar are up to each person. After all, as they say in Martinique “Chacun prépare sa propre mort” or “Each person prepares their own death.”
To play around to make my own Ti Punch, I had four different rhum agricoles.
Rhum Clément Blanc (80 proof) has floral notes as well as savory vegetal aromas of hay, and earthy flavors and lots of body.
Rhum J.M. Blanc 110 (110 proof) has notes of tropical fruit and banana.
Rhum J.M. Gold 50% is aged for one year in American oak, resulting in notes of baking spices, wood, cinnamon, clove, allspice.
Rhum Clément V.S.O.P. is aged four years in American and French oak and has aromas of banana, toffee, buttered popcorn, and lovely salinity on the palate.
I played with the four styles of rhum agricole, added some Rhum J.M. Sirop and lime. I liked more Sirop and lime with the Clement Blanc and less Sirop with the Rhum JM.
In Martinique, locals boast that “All roads lead to rhum.” And as there are no rules as to how to make a Ti Punch, there are also no rules as to when to enjoy a Ti Punch. Enjoy one in the afternoon, or perhaps as the sun sets. Start your day with a Ti Punch in the morning, also called a “décollage” (french word for takeoff), or enjoy one before bed. Make it with aged rhum agricole for a Ti’ Punch Vieux, make it dry with not much sugar for a Ti Sec, or let the rhum shine in a Ti Rude without much sirop or lime.
It may seem simple but it is a lot of fun to play around to find a Ti Punch style you like! Play with limes, lemon, grapefruit, various juices, sugars and remember, no ice is needed! Have fun! Cheers!