Friday, January 21, 2011
1 1/2 oz. Dark rum
3/4 oz. Light rum
1/2 oz. 151-proof rum
1 1/2 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
1/2 oz. Fresh orange juice
1/4 oz. Fresh lime juice
1/4 oz. Grenadine
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a tall, ice-filled glass. Garnish with an orange slice and Maraschino cherry.
~ adapted from "Phillip Collier's Mixing New Orleans: Cocktails & Legends" by Jennifer Adams & Michael Terranova, 2007
I'd have thought that by now every drink's history would have been documented. Between the internet and the community of earnest, hardworking booze nerds who spend their days ferreting out the details of where a drink was first made and by whom (or why...or when...), I figured most cocktails had at least a vague backstory attached to them that could be scrounged up with a little effort. Even if a specific creator or date is unknown, many drinks can at least be traced to an appearance in a book or bar somewhere.
Turns out that some drinks may like to keep their pasts hidden.
For quite some time I've had the Pirate's Punch bookmarked in my copy of Mixing New Orleans, where it appears next to a brief piece on Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, the landmark French Quarter watering hole. When I decided to take it for a test drive, one of the first things I did was to contact the author and see if she had any knowledge of its history. The redoubtable and accommodating Ms. Adams apologized and regretted to inform me she knew nothing of the drink other than it being served at Lafitte's. However, being that the Pirate's Punch is a rum-based concoction, she suggested I contact Martin Cate, the rum guru, proprietor of Smuggler's Cove and all-around swell guy for a possible lead.
His swift reply was, "Never heard of it."
Undeterred, I took my search online and did a cursory look-see. I quickly found out that if you type "Pirate's Punch" into the search engine of your choice, you will receive numerous recipes with that name, but bearing little resemblance to each other. You can even find ones that contain Hawaiian Punch as an ingredient. Vodka too.
Not much in the way of provenance though.
At this stage of the game I could have made the decision to turn this into a project and investigate further. As attractive as the prospect of playing Junior Sherlock was, I didn't want to harangue all my drink geek pals (which I do plenty of already), nor did I want to simply call up Lafitte's and pester some overworked member of the staff. Those people are very busy, and the last thing they need is some dork on the phone asking about their drinks so he can feel somewhat informed as he draws a funny picture.
So I decided that a little mystery is a good thing. If someone out there knows anything about this drink and wants to send it my way, I'm fine with it...but I'm also fine with sipping away and imagining some colorful origin story that may or may not have any connection to reality. Often the made-up stuff sounds better anyway.
Speaking of sipping, I won't abuse you with my usual clumsy tasting notes, but I will point out that the terms "dark rum" and "light rum" can be interpreted very widely, and you could spend the next week and a half experimenting with various ones to see which combos you like. For what it's worth, I found the combination of Ron Atlantico Private Cask and Oronoco made a crisp, citrus-forward version that still showcased the rum flavors well and would be great as a hot-weather drink. And any excuse to use the ol' Lemon Hart 151 is OK by me.