Planter’s Punch

It’s been hot on the grounds of the Slakethirst estate — conditions which turn the palate towards that old devil rum. Adam Thornton recently suggested Planter’s Punch, and while I happened to have neither pineapple juice nor a copy of DeGroff (required to make one a la Thornton), there are other ways and means, and it seemed a very good idea, as it’s been a while.

3 oz. dark rum
3/4 oz. grenadine
juice of a small lime
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 dashes Fee’s Aromatic bitters

Stir with crushed ice and strain into a collins glass 2/3 full of same

The recipe above is Vic Bergeron’s, from his 1947 Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. It has been slightly modified for convenience (more grenadine, no bar sugar) and personal preference (no bitters in Vic’s), but I don’t think it loses much in translation. Mix it right and you’ll know it, because you will have been transported. Portland lost its Trader Vic’s years ago, but Vic’s Planter’s Punch recipe brings it back in all its dimly-lit, scorpion bowl slurping splendor. This isn’t mere literary license, either: I really did experience something on the order of a multisensory flashback. It’s a damn fine drink!

A wide variety of juices and ratios may appear under this name — and perhaps validly so … I’ll pick up some pineapple to see what Thornton’s on about — but there’s something very special about this one. Maybe it’s the menehunes.

9 thoughts on “Planter’s Punch”

  1. Zowie! Here’s Dale DeGroff’s Planter’s Punch recipe… it’s a pitcher-sized recipe, so I’ll probably halve it to serve two stout ones.

    Yields 1 liter – serves 6
    5 oz. Dark Rum
    5 oz. Light Rum
    3 oz. Orange Curacao
    6 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
    6 oz. Pineapple Juice
    3 oz. Simple Syrup
    3 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
    3 oz. of Grenadine
    1 tablespoon Angostura Bitters

    Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher. Shake drinks individually in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, pouring into goblets filled 3/4 with ice. Garnish with pineapple, orange and lime slices.

    I think I’ll be picking up some pineapple juice and fresh citrus this evening 😉

  2. And wowie! Tasting results are in, and DeGroff’s interpretation of a Planter’s Punch is so far removed from Bergeron’s that they really oughtn’t share a name. DeGroff’s contains less than 2/3 the alcohol, replaces half of the dark rum with light at the cost of intensity, and with the addition of orange, pineapple and curaçao (and the subtraction of lemon juice) is much sweeter. It’s a tall, mild, fruity drink, and pleasantly so, but it’s worlds removed from the Trader’s strong, dark, more cocktailian version upon which I cut my milk teeth.

    I do like what DeGroff has done. It’s particularly nice when shaken extra-vigorously and strained to the last drop, as it produces a lovely layer of froth that will persist to the final dram, tickling the nose with its bouquet at every sip. Indeed, I’d have to say that the nose was my favorite part of DeGroff’s recipe. I used freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice, and don’t believe that any good can come from attempting this drink with anything less. Nothing in a carton can match the aroma of fresh-squeezed, but if you simply must, a few drops of orange flower water set into the foam after pouring might not be a bad idea.

    I’d make one again, no doubt. I just wish there were another name for it.

  3. I’ll give Trader Vic’s a shot tonight. It’s not what I think of as a punch–odd as it is, the relatively low alcohol content and sweetness of Degroff’s are what make it a good summer drink, when you need something to quaff to replace all the fluid you’ve lost through vigorous sweating. DeGroff also recommends–if you’re drinking from big glasses–topping with club soda, which again enhances quaffability at the expense of alcohol content and cocktailianity.

    With Trader Vic’s recipe, I think you wouldn’t be very happy if you quaffed rather than sipped it, and in my book, punches are for quaffing. That, however, seems to be a staple of Trader Vic’s recipes (I really need to get an authoritative collection of ’em): the real Mai Tai is something that leaves you a bit breathless, rather than the fruit punch you usually get someplace if you order one (for example, P.F. Chang’s, an upscale Chinese restaurant chain with (I presume) a common mxing guide at its various locations–the Mai Tai I had there was very, very pineappley (and this in a drink that in its original incarnation had no pineapple at all), although it did contain a hell of a lot of rum for a $7 drink at a somewhat overpriced restaurant).

    But in DeGroff’s book he points out that there are, indeed, a great variety of drinks that can travel under the name “Planeter’s Punch”; basically, throw some sweet fruit juice (and Vic omits even this) in with some sweet, some citrus, some rum, and some orange liqueur, shake, and serve, and it’s a planter’s punch.

    While I’m going on about tropical drinks: I think there’s a great need, hint hint, for a comparative series of Zombies, ranging from Baker’s recipe, which is cognac-based rather than rum, and in no way recognizable as the modern Zombie, through Trader Vic’s deadly passionfruit-containing concoction, to Regan’s Zombie #2, about which I don’t remember much except that it would have been lethal even without the float of 151 on top of it.


  4. I tried (as promised) the Trader Vic’s recipe this afternoon; still drinking it, as a matter of fact. Now, today in St. Louis was excessively hot: 103 for the high, and still 100 out there, and I duly went outside to drink most of it. I shook rather than stirred, because, hey, fresh-squeezed lime and lemon juice deserve a shake.

    I must say that my initial suspicions were justified: it’s not quaffable. However, that has less to do with the preponderance of rum than it does with the amount of lime and lemon juice, which make this a very sour drink. I’m using Fee Brothers’ American Beauty grenadine, which is, in this concentration, quite pomegranitey, but weirdly not all that sweet. Not a bad drink, but on a day like today, I prefer DeGroff’s concoction.


  5. Heh. No, indeed, I wouldn’t gulp Vic’s Planter’s Punch, nor look to it as a source of re-hydration. I tend to sip ’em in the deep, shady coolness of an east-facing porch in the shank of the evening, trying to catch the occasional humid breeze.

    Sorry it’s not right for St. Louis in the dog days… the citrus doesn’t hit me quite the way you describe it, but perhaps mine are sweeter. I’ve not tried Fee’s grenadine — don’t believe I’ve seen it in these parts — but am instead using some of my own making, a 1:1 of pomegranate juice and sugar, a la Wondrich, via Paul of the Cocktail Chronicles.

    Funny you should mention the Zombie… I’ve been intending to probe a bit deeper into the realm of tropical bevvies while the weather insists on oppressing, and picked up some 151 this afternoon for that very purpose. Vic’s Zombie is nice — the Pernod makes a remarkably assertive contribution for its volume — but one Zombie a night is probably enough, and Ms. Thirsty was wanting Coladas, so the full examination must be postponed.

    Don’t know which edition of Baker you have, but in my 1946 2nd ed., he footnotes his Cap Haitien Zombie with:

    It may be of some mild interest to our Lodge of the Amiable Amateur Mixers that the Zombie formula set on this page was put to paper in the fall of ’35; whereas the high-proof so-called Zombie known to most bar men did not raise its dizzy head until two years later.

    And indeed, Baker’s bears no resemblance to what we know of as the Zombie today… coconut, cognac, maraschino and angostura … there’s nothing in the CocktailDB that vaguely resembles it. I’m tempted to conclude from this that it’s a horrible idea, but there’s only one way to find out…

  6. I have the 1992 reprint of what I believe to be the 1939 1st ed.

    The only variant he mentions is replacing one of the three jiggers of cognac with rum. It probably is a horrible idea and I confess that I didn’t try one today. Although the heat has finally broken, I worked out after work, and, being hot and sweaty, made a mojito instead.

    Pernod quite simply is horrifically assertive. I think my big bottle of Absente is going to last me nearly forever, becuse I simply can’t use more than a dash or two in anything. Unless I come over all Baudelaire and drink the whole bottle in one immensely regrettable sitting.


  7. Your Slakethirst recipe is good but I make one change. In lieu of 3 ozs of dark rum I u8se 1 oz dark, 1oz light colored, and 1oz white (Bacardi type). On a hot day this drink can be lethal so I limit myself to 1 drink and my guests the same. If the drinks are spaced far enough apart on summer day you can serve the 2nd drink.

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