Florida bars share their secret recipes for rum punch

It was created by sailors, but co-opted by kids

By A.D. Thompson,

Historically, sailors have excelled at many things. Navigation, for example. Knot tying. And certainly, drinking. They knocked back a considerable amount of beer on any given voyage, of course, but as these salty men headed farther and farther from Old Blighty and other points north, the wondrous warmer climes – pleasant though they oft may have been – had one nasty folly: it spoiled the brew.

But sailors (or perhaps simply enthusiastic imbibers) can also be creative. And so, using ingredients native to the regions in which they sailed, things like rum, citrus and spice, they cobbled together something beautiful: punch. It eventually found its way into the mainstream, which relieved it of its lustier, leaded elements and rendered it suitable for children.

Thankfully, though, its history as the beverage of adventurers has not been forgotten. And bartenders, too, excel at many things. 

Punches, from classic recipe to brand-new spin, are appearing on the menus of many fine establishments these days. Here are four such libations, created by those who seek to preserve the drink's colorful history and further it along on the path of cocktail evolution.

Autumn Blossom

You'll want to "fall" into The Ravenous Pig's Autumn Blossom Punch — Photo courtesy of The Ravenous Pig

At the beloved Winter Park establishment, The Ravenous Pig, rotating menus ensure that only the freshest ingredients are employed. Same goes for the cocktail menu, where punch is so valued, it's a weekly staple.

"Punch is great for those who are in the mood for a good time or celebration but don't know where to start," says Kristian Sirani, Bar Manager. "We rotate our punch bowl every Sunday, keeping things fresh and to introduce new spirits and flavors for those willing to explore." 

16 oz aged rum (Ron Del Barrilito 3 star)
16 oz cognac (Bache Gabrielsen)
1 quart Moroccan Orange-Mint sherbet (ingredients below)
16 oz water
 
Orange-Mint Sherbet 
Zest of 4 oranges
8 oz superfine sugar
16 oz mint tea

.5 oz Moroccan Orange flower water

Stir to dissolve. Add 9 oz fresh-squeezed and fine strained orange juice. Top with water to yield 1 quart total.

DoveCote Fish House Punch

The "couples" serving of DoveCote's Fish House Punch has a fun, raw bar-style presentation — Photo courtesy of DoveCote

At the lauded French eatery, DoveCote, in downtown Orlando, the current go-to amalgam is the Fish House Punch.

"It's a super old American punch, early 1700s, I think, that fits our cocktail program and cuisine pretty adeptly," says co-owner and bar industry veteran Gene Zimmerman.  "We've tweaked a few components along the way to make it our own. We're even known to do a 'couples serving' in our special fish flasks from time to time."

1/4 pint Diplomatico Reserva
1/2 pint H by Hine VSOP Cognac
1/4 pint Giffard Creme de Peche 
1/3 pint fresh lemon juice

2 pints cold water

Stir well in punch bowl and serve into punch cups over ice.

Orlando Rum Punch

Tony Roma's Orlando Rum Punch is new on the menu at its I-Drive location — Photo courtesy of Tony Roma's

Sure, it's a brand known far and wide, but its barkeeps are artists just the same. At the International Drive outpost of Tony Roma's, they've created a punch that's unique to the City Beautiful in which it was invented. 

.5 oz Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
.5 oz Myers's Dark Rum
.5 oz Passoa Passion Fruit Liqueur
.5 oz Disaronno Originale Amaretto

3 oz pineapple juice

Served in a chilled, 18-oz goblet. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Strong Water Tavern Milk Punch

The Strong Water Tavern's Milk Punch employs milk in the process, but the end product contains none at all — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort 2017

This spacious, comfortable lounge at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort could easily be called a rum lover's paradise. Waterfall and lagoon views conjure the Caribbean and the rum, which might be served by your very own rum captain, enhances this illusion about a hundredfold. 

The Milk Punch is a house favorite, made via a signature three-day process with a recipe they attribute to Benjamin Franklin himself (the colonists brought that British fondness for punch with them to the New World). Although we'd certainly recommend a Universal Orlando visit, you certainly don't need one to enjoy the punch.

6 c rum
4 c Earl Grey tea
2 c fresh lemon juice
Velvet Falernum to taste (add more if you like it sweeter)
3 c Milk

11 orange peels

Combine rum and orange peels in large airtight, lidded container, then cover and steep for 24 hours. Strain peels from rum and discard. Add Earl Gray tea, lemon juice, Velvet Falernum and stir. Bring milk to a boil in a pan set over med-low heat. Once it comes to a boil, immediately add milk to the rum mixture and stir. Let stand uncovered for 2 hours – the mixture will curdle as it sits. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter or similar straining device.  Before discarding the curds, squeeze them to extract as much liquid as possible. Before serving, lightly whisk the punch.