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Rum Punch of Choice

Rum Punch of Choice

British Virgin Islands’ residents and visitors alike are feeling celebratory these days, as the annual August festival season descends upon the islands. From an early morning J'ouvert parade to concerts and Carrot Bay donkey races, Tortola will be in a party mood for the first half of the month. Of course, plenty of people choose to escape the craziness of Tortola and spend the festival holidays boating and relaxing elsewhere in the BVI. Wherever you enjoy the sultry days of August, mix up a batch of delicious rum punch to quench your thirst.

Rum punch is the signature cocktail of the Caribbean. Versions vary from island to island and bartender to bartender—in fact, part of the fun of rum punch is the assortment of versions that exist. Rum punch is found in two main varieties, the simple Bajan style from Barbados and the fruitier type that is sometimes referred to as “planter’s punch.”
In Barbados, the general ingredients are explained by a basic rhyme: “One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong, Four of Weak.” The sour component is lime juice while the sweet ingredient is cane syrup or simple sugar syrup. Naturally, the strong component is rum, and the weak part is water. Add a dash of bitters and a little grated nutmeg and you have a taste of the islands in your glass.
The second variety of rum punch, featuring fruit juices, is the type of punch typically found in BVI bars. My homemade version contains mango and pineapple juices, although guava juice and orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed) also work well. Additionally, I include grenadine for a deep red-orange colour.  

I’ve spent my fair share of time experimenting with rum punch ingredients and have learned that it’s not just rum that separates rum punch from fruit punch. Although only a few dashes are needed, bitters is a key rum punch ingredient, with the bitter herb essence providing flavour complexity and cutting the sweetness of the fruit juice. Trinidad’s Angostura brand is the best known make of bitters and a staple in every Caribbean liquor cabinet.

My refrigerator is often stocked with a container of freshly made punch, especially when I have visitors. (For the sake of children or for adults who want non-alcoholic punch, I do not add rum until I serve the drinks.) After a long day of travel, visitors to the BVI instantly feel like they’re on vacation when they arrive at my house and are greeted to a fruity rum punch.

Although I enjoy mixing my own rum punches, I also like sampling the drinks offered by local bars. My favourite rum punch in the BVI is the Anegada Reef Hotel’s “rum smoothie,” which is well worth the trip to Anegada. The Reef Hotel takes a typical fruity rum punch and adds a generous dose of cream of coconut for a decadent and addictive concoction. I’ve never asked why it’s called a “smoothie,” but I suspect it’s because these drinks—like most fruity and coconuty drinks—go down so smoothly while you relax at the hotel’s beach bar, watching the sunset and celebrating a beautiful summer day.


Susie’s Fruity Rum Punch
Have fun experimenting with different types of rum. I prefer Mount Gay Eclipse for rum punch.


Combine first five ingredients (mango juice through bitters) in a pitcher. Fill a glass with ice and desired amount of rum. Add fruit juice mixture and stir or shake well. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and garnish with a lime slice. Makes about 8 drinks.


4 c mango juice (e.g. Ceres brand)
3 c pineapple juice
½ c freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tbl grenadine (optional)
¼ tsp Angostura bitters
Freshly grated nutmeg and lime slices for garnish


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