Ti’ Punch is the national cocktail of French Caribbean islands Martinique and Guadeloupe. Its name is an abbreviation for the Creole word “petite,” meaning small, so it translates to “small punch.” Calling for three ingredients—lime, sugar cane syrup and rhum agricole—it’s a flavorful, easygoing cocktail that’s woven into the cultural fabric of these island nations.
If a Ti’ Punch is on the menu, you must begin with rhum agricole. This French term signifies rum made from fresh sugarcane juice, rather than the more common molasses, and it’s often characterized by grassy, earthy aromas and flavors. This style is native to French Caribbean islands, including Martinique and Guadeloupe. Rhum agricole works great in Daiquiris and other classic rum drinks, but it shines especially bright in the Ti’ Punch.
“Ti’ Punch is part of the daily life in the French Caribbean,” says Ben Jones of Spiribam, a company that markets and distributes several Caribbean rums. “It’s not much different than espresso in Italy. Most people like it strong as a pick-me-up throughout the day.” He adds that each person has their own preferred method for preparing the drink, and it’s customary to welcome visitors with a Ti’ Punch upon arrival.
Traditionally, the Ti’ Punch is neither shaken nor stirred. Instead, it’s built in the same rocks glass in which it’s served. Start by adding a lime wheel and its juice to the glass, then stir or swizzle with a teaspoon or so of sugar cane syrup until the two ingredients are combined. Finally, add the rhum agricole—typically the unaged blanc variety, but aged spirits can also work, if you prefer a drink with more depth and barrel notes. Ice is optional. Room temperature cocktails can seem unusual to drinkers who are accustomed to cold beverages, but forgoing the ice is a common practice in the French Caribbean.
When made right, the cocktail’s combination of grassy rhum agricole, tart lime and aromatic, sweet sugar cane work together in perfect harmony, making the Ti’ Punch a worthy classic to be discovered by anyone who enjoys rum drinks and island sensibilities.
1 lime wheel
1 teaspoon sugar cane syrup
2 ounces rhum agricole
Squeeze a lime wheel into a chilled rocks glass, and drop in the wheel.
Add the sugar cane syrup, and stir with the juice.
Add the rhum agricole and optional ice, if desired.