Today we are featuring a famous drink, Planter’s Punch, with an interesting history which “hails” from the South.
When I think of Planter’s Punch, I immediately think of warm weather, plantations, parties, fresh juices and rum. I can just imagine sitting down towards the end of the day in a comfortable chair on a shady balcony with a beautiful view and relaxing, with Planter’s Punch in hand. Bliss.
Little did I know, that my interest would be piqued because of my visit to Charleston on hearing the stories and history of Planter’s Punch.
Prior to the civil war, there was no shortage of money in Charleston and most nearby plantation owners owned houses in Charleston (some just stayed in hotels) to spend the summer months (malaria season) in relative comfort, rather than out at the plantation.
Reputed to be the invention of the Planters Hotel and having just visited some of those magnificent old plantations, one could just imagine plantation owners sipping on their Planter’s Punch at the next social engagement.
And having observed on this trip, the very good manners of Charleston’s citizens, I couldn’t help thinking what an appropriate drink Planter’s Punch is for these folks in this climate. So, what is the history of Planter’s Punch and why did it make such an impact in Charleston?
Good Manners in Charleston and The History of Planter’s Punch
Before addressing that question, let’s just remind ourselves about the circumstances in which Charleston was settled.
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Charleston was settled by people escaping religious persecution from Europe. Many of the very earliest settlers were English and from the most upper of classes. Indeed, Charleston is named after King Charles II, who regained the English throne after the death of Oliver Cromwell, who had earlier driven out Charles II.
As a thank you to eight loyal friends who assisted in him recapturing the throne, he granted rights to large tracts of land in the American colonies and without going into detail, Charleston was born. Some of these loyal friends already owned sugar plantations in the West Indies.
From the outset, Charleston developed with a tolerance for all religions, which was based on mutual respect. Well off families even had the family pew to kneel and sit on! Plantations brought great wealth to Charleston and there was no shortage of money, good living and good manners.
When visiting Charleston today, you can’t help but observe the great charm and manners exhibited by the locals. In a world that seems to have forgotten the importance of courtesy and respect, visiting Charleston is indeed a refreshing change.
And if you think this is all just a show of false pretense then you need to think again. Southern hospitality and charm is alive and well and it extends right throughout the areas we visited in the Carolinas and Georgia.
Indeed, when visiting relatives in South Carolina, I was almost bowled over by the number of times young men (many still in their ‘teens) addressed my wife as “Miss Beth”. And again, just walking down the street, complete (male) strangers would acknowledge her with a, “Morning Ma’am”.
What a pleasant surprise!
So, it is easy to imagine plantation owners sipping a Planter’s Punch to celebrate Charleston’s great alcoholic drink gift to the world. Unfortunately, it is not true.
Indeed, Charleston’s own newspaper debunks this urban myth and makes the argument that Jamaica is the home of Planter’s Punch. A minor letdown but I’m not one for the truth to get in the way of a good story.
Enough of the history, now about that Planter’s Punch….
How to Make Planter’s Punch
There are literally hundreds of recipes for Planter’s Punch. All you need is some dark or light rum (or both) sweet juices, sour juices, simple syrup, grenadine and some Angostura bitters (optional). A cocktail shaker is handy but not mandatory and some ice (lots of it).
If you can, freshly squeezed juice is best.