With a tropical storm in the forecast for the next couple of days of our vacation, two things topped the agenda for our first full day of rest and relaxation: beach and rum punch. Vieques has some of the best beaches in the world as long as you are willing to drive a few miles, schlep your own chairs and towels to the sand, and serve your own drinks (or bring your honey along to serve them to you!). Home to the Caribbean’s largest fish and wildlife refuge, Vieques boasts pristine beaches which are home to sea turtles but not humans.
After mucho lounging in the sun, floating on the waves, and drinking beer lighter than I would ever drink except for at the beach, we rolled back to Esperanza to sample more punch. A favorite hangout for locals and tourist alike is Duffy’s on the Malencon, a sort of boardwalk of shops and restaurants adjacent to the ocean. Duffy’s punch followed the typical pattern of gold rum and white rum. The bartender worked so fast at pulling the bottles from the well I didn’t catch what they were, but my guess is there were Puerto Rican and not anything fancy-schmancy. Next came the juice or the “secret sauce” of a rum punch. She didn’t know what was in it. Another one of the bartenders had premixed it and stored it in a recycled juice bottle.
There was nothing recycled about it. Orange and pineapple were definitely present, but there was something else. Something with a red hue and a sweetness. Guava? Passion fruit? I never got their secret, but the stuff was good. A bit sweeter than the punch from the night before, but judging from the amount they serve up even in the off season, Duffy’s punch is a crowd-pleaser. And simple!
After I confessed my quest, the chief bartender concocted his rum-lovin’ punch for me. This time, my gaze was fixed on the well and saw him pull and pour Cruzan coconut, passion fruit, and mango rums. No one measures at a place like that! Then, the magic happened as he whipped out myriad of plastic jugs with juices in them. I have no idea what he added and he wasn’t telling. He shook that baby up and poured it into a glass. Indeed, that was rum-lovin’! For someone who likes fruit and coconut and a little sweeter drink, this is the ticket.
The day’s work was not over yet. We swung by another beach on our way back to the house, but returned again to Esperanza for dinner. You see, I was on strike from cooking seeing that I was “working” so diligently on my quest. I had the usual at Trade Winds: the T.W.I.P.P. (Trade Winds Island Planter’s Punch). After the afternoon punches at Duffy’s, the T.W.I.P.P., served in a Ball jar, put me under the table. So much so, that it never occurred to me to pick the bartender’s brain as to her secrets. I just sucked that baby down.
It wasn’t as sweet as some of the other punches I’ve had, and packed a serious punch (pun intended). I’m guessing pineapple and orange juices and some serious rum, both gold and white. I’ll be sure to ask next time. The lesson was that a rum punch is as easy to tweak to your guests’ tastes, whether it is cranking up the gold rum which has more flavor than a white rum because it’s been aged, or dappling with flavored rums for someone with a sweeter tooth.
Totally supportive of my quest, my tea-totaling guy poured me back into the car and got me home. This quest thing was fun! I slept like a baby that night, my friends.