Martinique's Potent Punch
Move over mojito, there’s a new cocktail in town. It’s called ti punch but this ain’t no long, sweet and fruity umbrella-topped rum concoction. This is hard core, baby! On a trip to Martinique last summer I had a chance to try the national tipple, and while it’s made from three of the same ingredients as the mainstream mojito (white rum, sugar and lime), that’s where the similarity ends.
To make ti punch, you simply put a teaspoon of sugar into a shot glass, muddle it with a lime slice (locals use a wooden mixing stick called a bois lele), add enough white rum to double the volume of liquid, then savor it one slow sip at a time (no slamming allowed!) Purists, I’m told, favor Neisson’s rhum blanc agricole, and wouldn’t dream of adding ice, because that changes the flavor and intensity. And intense it is. With no sprigs of mint or splashes of soda to temper the heat of the rum, this is a serious drink. (And for a lightweight like me, it’s an acquired taste that, truthfully, I haven’t yet acquired.)
Nevertheless, ti punch is a popular “eye-opener” here, an early-morning drink known affectionately as a decollage (literally, the “take-off”). And since you can’t go a mile in Martinique without someone offering you one, it would be decidedly impolite not to accept. It’s often proffered as a welcome gesture when you visit someone’s home, prepared in front of you and to your taste by the host. In fact, one of my happiest Martinique moments was sipping the ti punch made for me by celebrated local artist Laurent Valere. I’m not sure whether it was the punch, the company of fellow creative types, or the setting on the breezy verandah of his beachfront home, but it’s a fond memory that lingers – kinda like that ti punch buzz.