• Julia Thiel
  • Jasper’s Jamaican Planter’s Punch with lemon ice cubes

Since receiving a copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails as a gift a few years ago, I’ve leafed through it several times, always getting drawn into Ted Haigh’s detailed explanations of the old-fashioned cocktails. They feature exotic, often long-forgotten ingredients like Kola Tonic, crème de violette, the dark purple Parfait Amour, and the Scandinavian liqueur Swedish Punsch—and that’s exactly what’s kept me from ever attempting to actually make any of the recipes. There’s even a recipe for creating your own version of Boker’s Bitters, which haven’t been available since the 19th century. Many of the recipes involve less obscure ingredients, but even the easier ones tend to call for things I don’t usually have on hand, like sloe gin, apricot brandy, cognac, or kirschwasser.

For a recent party, though, I decided to make punch (having learned from previous experience that mixing cocktails individually is a great way to ensure that you’ll never be able to leave the kitchen). After some online research, it occurred to me to check this book and found a few recipes, including one for an eight-ingredient Fish House Punch. I opted instead for the much simpler Jasper’s Jamaican Planter’s Punch, which didn’t call for ingredients that I’d never use again.

  • Julia Thiel
  • More Angostura bitters than I’ve ever used at once before

Haigh begins his introduction to this cocktail by explaining that he’s never been particularly impressed by Planter’s Punch, calling most of the recipes he’s come across either “plain and bland” or overly sweet and fruity. He goes on to explain, though, that there’s one version he actually likes, devised by Jasper LaFranc of the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay. You start by making “Jasper’s Secret Mix,” a concoction comprised of the juice of 12 limes, a cup and a half of sugar, one and a quarter ounces of Angostura bitters, and half a nutmeg (grated). You stir everything together until the sugar dissolves, let it steep in the fridge for at least two hours, and then combine it one to one with dark Jamaican rum, preferably Coruba (the recipe suggests an ounce and a half of each). It’s served in a highball glass filled with cracked ice.

  • Julia Thiel
  • Half nutmeg (the rest has been grated already)

I followed the recipe for the “secret mix” pretty much exactly, but couldn’t find Coruba rum so I went with Whaler’s dark rum instead. Haigh describes the punch as “delicious and sophisticated,” and I’d agree—the nutmeg really makes the drink, though it’s not an ingredient I’ve found in other Planter’s Punch recipes online. The lime and the bitters also stand out, balancing the molasses of the rum. The combined flavors were so intense, though, that I found most people—myself included—preferred it topped with sparkling wine or sparkling water. That may be sacrilege, but it’s good that way. (The large ice cubes in the photo at the top were made in a muffin tin with slices of lemon: larger ice cubes melt more slowly, and the lemon makes it look pretty).

There’s one more recipe you can make with the lime/sugar/bitters/nutmeg mixture: Jasper’s Rum Punch, which uses Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum instead of the dark rum (in the same proportions as the Planter’s Punch). I haven’t tried it yet, but Haigh promises that the overproof white rum “gives the drink an entirely different flavor and overall character.”

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Thursdays.