“Wha gine on?” As I wove through a Friday night crowd on the island of Barbados, I passed friends slapping hands and greeting each other in Barbadian slang. I’d come to Oistin’s Fish Fry—one of the islands social hubs—along with a good-timing crowd of locals who were kicking off the weekend with freshly caught fish, dancing, and glasses of rum punch.
From neighborhood bars to top restaurants, rum is the Barbados’ defining drink. It’s woven into the island’s history: Founded in 1703, Barbados’ Mount Gay Rum is the oldest existing rum distillery on earth, and it’s why I’d come to the Caribbean. After driving through a landscape of rolling sugarcane fields, I toured the distillery’s aromatic vats of molasses, polished copper stills, and a vast aging room stacked high with oak barrels. In a whitewashed laboratory, I sipped aged rums that ranged from smoky, Scotch-inspired drinks to bottles that wafted tropical fruit aromas.
Like fine whiskey, the finest rums are worth savoring neat, but some bottles are made for stirring into sweet glasses of beach-ready rum punch. Ask a Barbadian for a recipe, and they might reply with the following rhyme: 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. This recipe from the Mount Gay Distillery turns that sing-song chant into a crowd-pleasing batch of summery cocktails that’s the perfect way to celebrate National Rum Day on August 16.
Mount Gay Rum Punch
19 ounces Mount Gay Black Barrel rum
4 ounces lime juice
1 ounces Angostura bitters
12 ounces grenadine
13 ounces simple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
18 ounces waterMaraschino cherries for garnish
Mix the lime juice, water, and sugar syrup.
Combine the mixture with grenadine syrup and rum.
Add the bitters and mix well.
Pour over ice in a highball glass, sprinkle with grated nutmeg, and garnish with a cherry.
Jen Rose Smith is a freelance writer and award-winning guidebook author whose work explores travel, adventure and food. She’s currently living on the road, with a mountainous 2018 itinerary that goes from the Andes of South America to the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. Read more of her work at jenrosesmith.com.