The Petite Punch

by Geoffrey Kleinman

In the United States, the Ti-Punch is often prepared as a full three (or more) ounce cocktail, but the origins of the drink call for a much different approach. The “Ti” in Ti-Punch is a Creole word, meaning petit, or small. The Ti-Punch isn’t really a full cocktail - it lives in the universe somewhere between a cocktail and a shot, and is typically well under two ounces.

There are many different ways of preparing the Ti-Punch. The basics of the Ti-Punch mirror classic drinks like the margarita or daiquiri with spirit, sugar, and lime as the basic ingredients. In Martinique, where the drink originated, it’s often presented deconstructed and the drinker assembles it themselves in a custom referred to with a French phrase which translates literally to “each mixes their own death.” While this may be illegal or impractical at some bars, the preparation for the Ti-Punch always takes into consideration the preferences of the imbiber.

The kind and amount of sugar are a key source of the variance in the preparation of the Ti-Punch. Sugar cane syrup, demerara sugar, or even honey can be used. How the limes are cut and served also greatly impact the drink. The classic way of preparing the limes for a Ti-Punch is to cut them into discs which are about 50% peel and pith, and about 50% flesh of the lime.

It’s important to combine the sugar and lime before adding the spirit. Their combination prior to adding the rhum is a key aspect of making a good Ti-Punch.

Not all Ti-Punches are served with ice, as it’s considered an option for the drink. It does help the drink considerably and softens the often 100 proof rhum agricole for palates more accustomed to 80 proof spirits.

The traditional way to mix the drink is with a lele, or swizzle stick, which helps mix the ingredients as well as aerate the rhum and release the drink’s aromatics.

The traditional drink is best captured in the official Rhum Clément ‘Ti Punch recipe. Rhum Clement is one of the largest producers of rhum agricole and one of the leading agricole brands in the US.

Official Rhum Clément ‘Ti Punch

  • 1 ½ oz. Clément Rhum Agricole
  • A full bar spoon of Clément Sirop de Canne
  • A spherical lime disk (cut from the side of a lime to have about 50% zest & 50% pulp)

The Method:  Take a lime and gently roll it on the table to soften the lime and bring the oils to the surface. Cut the lime in 4 spherical lime disks and discard the core. In a rocks or old-fashioned glass, squeeze the lime disk and pour a heaping bar spoon of Clément Sirop de Canne over the squeezed lime. Add Clément Rhum Agricole and use a Bois Lélé (i.e. pronged wooden swizzle stick usually plucked from a tree native to Martinique) or a simple bar spoon to stir and gently muddle for a few seconds the lime to blend the aromatic oils from the peel until the Sirop de Canne is well integrated. If desired, add a tablespoon of crushed ice or one ice cube and briefly stir again to chill the drink.

The opportunity for the Ti-Punch is vast. Done as a small drink, the Ti-Punch fills the void on bar menus between straight spirits and full cocktails. It’s a perfect opening drink that can be made quickly with nice interaction between a bartender and their guest. With its small size it also gives a lower cost option for imbibers to step up from beer or wine into spirits.

Rediscovering the Ti-Punch as a small drink not only adds an important option to a cocktail menu, it’s a great opportunity to introduce guests to new spirits categories and drinks.

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