On the French-speaking island of Martinique rhum agricole is the norm. Not often seen outside their homeland and France, agricole rums are produced from fresh cane juice rather than molasses and have a brighter, grassier and drier flavour profile than their cousins.
At Husk Distillers in the hinterland of New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region, the Martiniquais expat distiller Quentin Brival is bringing an agricole-style “cane spirit” to Australia (according to an outdated law, cane spirits in Australia can only be called “rum” if they have been aged for a minimum of two years).
“Australia is one of the biggest sugar cane producers in the world,” he says, “so it makes perfect sense to make rum here. But when I arrived, I was struck by the fact that it’s just one style, and no-one had thought to make rum the way we do in Martinique.”
This basic ti punch recipe will have you drinking agricole rum as they do in Martinique — but remember, as they say on the island, you should “prepare your own death” (that is, adjust the measurements to taste).
In Martiniquais restaurants and bars, the waiter brings everything to the table for you to make your own — including the bottle of rum.
Quentin Brival’s Ti Punch
Fresh lime (never use lemon)
1/4 teaspoon raw sugar (white sugar is not an option)
50ml Husk Pure Cane 50
Find a ti punch glass. It’s important to use a small one because it’s a very short drink that doesn’t present well in a big glass. In Martinique, they use short tumblers.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to your glass. (Adjust sugar level to taste; Brival likes his ti punch very dry.)
Cut a coin-size slice from the edge of a whole lime. It should be mainly skin with just a little flesh. If you’re using more sugar, cut a larger slice with a bit more juicy flesh attached. Do not use lime quarters.
(Brival notes that in Martinique they’ll often drink a few ti punches in a row, remaking the drink in the same glass each time without discarding anything — so you can tell how many your friend has had by counting the lime coins at the bottom of their glass.)
Now do a presser lâcher, which translates to “squeeze and drop”. Squeeze the lime slice hard above the glass to extract the few drops of juice and release the oils from the skin then drop the squeezed slice into the glass (sugar doesn’t dissolve well in alcohol so adding the lime juice before the cane spirit allows the sugar to start dissolving).
Inhale. The simple combination of raw sugar and fresh lime is divine. Now take your bottle of Husk Pure Cane 50, or any Martinique-style white agricole rum (don’t use molasses rum), and pour 50 millilitres over the sugar and lime.
Don’t drink it yet! It’s swirl time. You need to give the ingredients time to get acquainted and you want the sugar to dissolve further. Once you’ve swirled your glass for 30 seconds to a minute, you can start drinking — but only small sips: it’s not a shot.
While not a requirement in Martinique, feel free to add a couple of ice cubes. Then savour the flavours and aromas, chat to your friend — who should be drinking one, too — and feel the rum slowly carry you away.