For a major American city, Boston has accounted for a paltry share of classic cocktails. There’s the Ward Eight, of course, a sort of fancied-up Whiskey Sour that, legend has it, was created at Frank Locke’s Wine Rooms in 1898. After that, there’s—well, there ain’t. One is entitled to wonder why that is. Could it be that Bostonians don’t drink? It couldn’t; they do. Or do they lack the mental acuity to combine alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients in just proportion? That won’t wash, either—Boston has always been a smart town.
The real reason, I think, is Rum Punch. Once Boston discovered this simple potion, sometime around the turn of the 1700s, it must have said to itself, “what could be better than this?” and quit monkeying about with bottles and whatnot. The American Revolution was planned over bowls of it at places like the Green Dragon Tavern and Chase & Speakman’s Distillery. (Up until Prohibition, New England produced a great deal of rum out of Caribbean molasses.)
Post-Independence, the merchants who made the city wealthy drank Rum Punch in their clubs, and everyone else enjoyed it in the saloons. You could buy the elixir by the bowl, by the glass or even by the bottle (pre-mixed “Hub Punch” was a 19th-century staple).
But a proper Boston Rum Punch is an exceedingly straightforward affair. As one local bartender with a reputation for serving it explained to a Boston Globe reporter in 1889, “It is not always the elaborateness of the drink that makes it acceptable to the taste.” He suggested readers “simply take a good dose of first quality rum, put it into a glass with cracked ice [and] pour over it a dipper of liquid from the lemonade bowl.”
If you begin with a rich and flavorful dark rum—and Bostonians pride themselves on their discernment in this matter—and make as little intervention as possible, it’s hard to fail.
- 2 ounces Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica rum
- Lemonade, to fill
- Garnish: strawberry half
- Garnish: orange slice
Fill a shaker with finely cracked ice.
Add the rum and fill the shaker with lemonade.
Shake briefly and pour (unstrained) into a pint glass.
Garnish with half a strawberry and an orange slice.