The ‘Ti Punch is about as simple a joy as there is. Even the name is simplified, the French Creole ‘ti standing in for the French petit, or petite. Composed mostly of potent rhum agricole with only minimal augmentation, the drink is traditionally served neat like an oversized shot, letting the full flavor of the bright, grassy, almost burnt-tasting rhum scorch across your palate. In the French Caribbean, where sugar cane-based rhum agricole is the norm, ‘Ti Punch is a daily ritual, a small cup of fresh alcoholic munition to fire you up in the evening or, if you really want to drink like a local, in the morning.
As with other elementary pleasures at the bar, ‘Ti Punch relies upon very specific ingredients. Rhum agricole is a given, but you’ll also need real cane syrup, a sweetener made from raw sugar cane juice boiled down until it reaches a light caramel color, a soft texture thinner than other dark syrups, and a subtle, almost bittersweet flavor. You’ll also need a lime disc, a very specific cut of citrus like a wheel cut from the edge of the fruit with the skin included. Squeezing the lime will release just a touch of juice into the cane syrup, and adding the used disc to the glass will provide the full range of the fruit’s flavors from tart juice to bitter pulp. The ‘Ti Punch’s designated tool, a swizzle stick, is also quite specific, but on this point we’re willing to diverge from tradition. The fresh wooden stirrer may impart some infinitesimal taste and texture to the drink, but only those rhum experts who can taste the slight difference through the mighty flavors of rhum agricole need worry about swizzling over stirring. And if you don’t have a swizzle stick, you can get away with using a spoon.