Let’s be clear: any drink holiday is a great excuse to celebrate. But National Rum Punch Day, which is celebrated on September 20 each year, always seems to invite a little extra razzle and dazzle. After all, this holiday recognizes an entire category of festive drinks that beg to be scaled up and shared with a crowd.
Punch has been around for a long time. The large-format favorite was first introduced to the Brits in the early seventeenth century from India. The English named this new style of cocktail punch, after the large barrels—or “puncheons”—used to transport alcohol on their ships.
It’s no surprise that rum soon became the star of their punches. After all… they had rum on board, and punches could be made in batches large enough to satisfy the thirst of an entire crew.
When the British Royal Navy captured the island of Jamaica in the 1600s, British sailors began enjoying a daily ration of rum. When they added fruit to their booze, it had the added benefit of keeping scurvy at bay. In its most basic form… that’s a rum punch!
So what defines rum punch today? In essence, a rum punch is any drink served in a punch bowl that contains rum, citrus and sugar. Many popular recipes will include bitters and tropical fruits. Hence, the possibilities are endless.
If you’re going to create your own rum punch recipe, try to remember this old Barbadian rhyme: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.
The “sour” element is citrus. Lime is perennially popular—as in this classic rum punch. Though lemon, orange, grapefruit, or even yuzu can pack an unexpected punch (no pun intended).
A punch’s sweetness comes from sugar—either an incorporated sugar, like simply syrup, or a raw sugar like turbinado or demerara.
The “strong,” of course, is the rum! With so many options to choose from, pick your favorite or layer several rums for added depth and complexity. If you like dark rum, you can’t go wrong with a classic Planter’s Punch. For something a little lighter and brighter, you may consider a tropical rum punch, which incorporates white and flavored rums. Or give rhum agricole a try, and mix up a batch of Ti’ Punch—the national cocktail of Martinique.
Finally, you’ve got “weak” (read: non-alcoholic)—this could be water, tea, non-citrus fruit juice… even milk!
From there, the world is your oyster. Try adding in some beer. Add flavorings like bitters or orgeat. Garnish with mint, fruit, or cinnamon sticks.
Just remember to have fun, and make enough for a crowd—National Rum Punch Day is best enjoyed with lots of friends gathered around your punch bowl!
National Rum Punch Day is typically celebrated