In Barbados, rum punch isn't just a drink; it's a way of life.Â It pervades the entire culture.Â More than 35,000 independently owned rum shops churn out punches to an exceptionally happy island populace on a daily basis. And some version of the national cocktail can be found at literally every restaurant, resort, street vendor or dive bar that travelers stumble into.
There's even an unofficial recipe for making a Barbadian rum punch that everyone on the island can recite at the drop of a hat: "One part sour, two parts sweet, three parts strong and four parts weak."
Within that well-established rhythmic recipe, however, there exists a multitude of variations.
I recently returned from a long weekend in Barbados, where I tried more than my share of rum punches. Each one managing to taste distinctly different, despite having the same essential ingredients. Some punches have fresh pineapple juice for the "weak" component; others have water. Some use refined sugar; some only include local, unrefined brown sugar. Some use dark rum; some use light rum.
Everyone on the island has their individual favorites, but one shop is continually mentioned as a contender in the unofficial battle for the best in Barbados. Cutters is a small rum shop located in St. Philip, just a 30 minute drive from the majority of the island's resorts. The shop is owned by 12th generation Barbadian, Roger Goddard, and judging by the incredible popularity of his punch, it seems like he might have just the right amount of field research under his belt.
Goddard was good enough to share his rum punch secrets with me during my visit and even gave me a hands-on tutorial. "It all depends on the freshness of the ingredients," Goddard advised as he squeezed the juice from the dozens of fresh limes on his counter. "And that's easy on the island."
Not only does rum have an enormous popularity on the island"”it also has history. Mount Gay is locally made in Barbados and is the oldest rum distillery in the world. (Their first official records of production date back to 1703.) It's a delicious brand that exports more than $100,000 million of rum worldwide every year, with each bottle proudly boasting its historic tagline: "Mount Gay: The rum that invented rum."
I'm not sure if you can officially say that Barabadians invented rum, but after my punch-drunk stay on the island, I can definitively say that they've perfected it.
Try out a batch of Cutter's "Very Special Rum Punch" at home with Roger Goddard's exclusive recipe:
1 sour: 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 sweet: 2 cups simple syrup (made with 1 cup unrefined brown sugar & 1 cup water)
3 strong: 3 cups Cockspur Old Gold rum
4 weak: 4 cups ice
*Mix together, add a dash of freshly grated nutmeg and a splash of Angosutra bitters and enjoy.
Ramona Flume is an insatiable world traveler who has spent the past two summers exploring her favorite country, Colombia, alone and armed only with her notebook and film cameras. She stayed in Austin after graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism, and writes about her travels at her blog: http://ramonaflume.wordpress.com.