Rum is to the Caribbean what real ale is to the UK. There are many varieties and every island will argue that their own produced rum is the best. It’s very much part of life here and when we first moved to Barbados I was amazed at the low price of good quality rum. What was even more staggering to us was the size of the bottles on sale. When I first saw a 1.75 litres of rum I thought “who buys that quantity!” and merrily took photos to send home where the reaction was much the same as mine. We purchased the 75ml bottle, thinking that was sufficient. A few months later, the 1.75 litre bottle of rum is now in my shopping cart.
Barbados has four rum distilleries, each having a distinctive taste. Well, once you start drinking it more often you notice the different flavours. It is much cheaper to drink rum than a bottle of wine too! There is the Mount Gay Distillery which is the main brand sold on the island. Their black barrel rum is particularly good. The West Indies Rum distillery is home to rums such as Cockspur and Malibu. Foursquare rum has a heritage park within lovely gardens but it’s the distillery in St. Nicholas Abbey that is set in the most beautiful grounds on the island.
Rum shops and bars are all over the island and usually very colourful. I assume that they are sponsored by the brewery or distillery when their logos dominated the shop. Men will be “liming” there and playing dominoes or watching cricket/football.
With rum comes rum punch. There are many versions of a rum punch that vary from island to island in the Caribbean. When I see a fellow food blogger post a generic “Caribbean Rum Punch” recipe I can’t help but raise an eyebrow and sigh. I have to resist myself upon correcting them, and let them enjoy the fond memory of the holiday they had on another rock where they enjoyed one too many rums.
The Barbados rum punch has a great recipe poem that is easy to remember. I call it a nursery rhyme for adults!
One of sour, two of sweet
Three of strong and four of weak
A dash of bitters and a sprinkle of spice
Serve well chilled with plenty of ice
Nutmeg is usually sprinkled over the punch and served with a few maraschino cherries. The sour is lime juice which is sold in bottles in all stores but you could use fresh if you have enough limes. It must be lime juice and not lime cordial. The sweet in the “song” is a sugar syrup solution. This is best made with Barbados sugar. If you make it with white processed sugar, it will not be the same. The strong is the rum, which must be dark. The weak is water. Now, how much is a measure you may ask. I use my kitchen measuring cups for this as rum punch is made in a jug in my home. As many a hungover, bleary-eyed guests will testify to. Add a dash of Angostora bitters, sprinkle some grated nutmeg, stick a cherry on stick and a straw in the glass and you are set. They are strong though. Be warned! We still do not talk of the night I happily and merrily drank 7 rum punches from a local bar. It’s still a mystery to me how I got home that night.