Friday, January 21, 2011

Mystery Drink


Pirate's Punch

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.


Scott Spolverino said...

It looks like someone smashed together a Zombie and a Mai Tai. I mean, normally you could pretty much say that for any cocktail because they both have most of the key ingredients for many tiki cocktails but the addition of the over proof while keeping the orange element and adding pineapple makes it look like some sort of Franken-Tai.

Jenny Adams said...

I'm not sure if people understood what Dr. Bamboo was really trying to say with this post. But just to reiterate, go and buy my book! :) yay!
In all seriousness, great post Craig. If i hear any back story I will certainly let you know. And the people at LaFitte's are NO help on was a nightmare getting information on that bar for the book and I was helped out by the Historic New Orleans Collection, rather than the owners. Go figure ;)

Unknown said...

This is funny, I am reading a book that outlines the historical record of "Black Bart" Bartholomew Roberts. In this book the mixture of "Punch" refers to Rum, Water, Sugar, Lime Juice.

It has been a very interesting read for me. here is a link to see the book.

Anonymous said...

This is very similar to some of the punch recipes found in my old 1946 copy of Trader Vic's Book of Food and Drink (particularly the 'Planter's Punch').

Sunny&Rummy said...

Doc or Ms. Adams. . .

Any ideas what rums are used at LaFitte's?

You are right, there are very broad interpretations of what "dark rum" means in a recipe. In a drink called "Pirate's Punch" calling for dark rum, my first instinct is to reach for the Coruba.