Cocktail Chatter - How'd Ya Like a Nice Planter's Punch?

“That’s the thing about Planter’s Punch,” Sal shouted over the din at BarHarbor one Friday evening as a crowd of guys holding sweaty dress shirts over their arms, not-so-fresh from the city, yelled remarks at each other while getting smashed on overpriced drinks. “What’s the thing?” I screamed back. Sal only seemed to mouth his reply; I couldn’t hear a word of it. Sal’s boyfriend, Shea, broke in: “Fact is, this drink was served by Cuban slave owners but made by slaves from rum distilled by slaves and fruit grown by slaves. Bottoms up!” (“Where?” the wag next to us cried.)

Sal and Shea are once-a-month housemates. Shea is a successful and very handsome 32-year-old actor; he’s always in something, from Broadway to off-off-off. Sal, whose last name is Amminio – his parents were either clueless or just plain mean – comes from South Philadelphia via Harvard Law, and is 50. Dismissing a lucrative career in corporate law in favor of various low-paying legal gigs for the LGBT community, Sal had little savings. He’d also learned from the bitter 25-year experience of working with and for PIGs (Phenomenally Idiotic Gays) to detest much of our community. I teased him relentlessly about his name and spent that weekend obscurely singing, “Who killed Teddy Bear? Does anybody care?”

BarHarbor’s Planter’s Punch was obviously made in vats meant for storing crude oil. Heavy on cheap juice and full of ice, it still cost $12 a pop. By the time the bar boy, who looked like a sixth-grader with very grown-up armpit hair, worked his way through the pheromone-high crowd, the punch was basically flavored ice water.

“I ’an do be’er than this!” I slurred over the requisite playing of Cher’s “Believe.” “Duh yoo buh-_lee_of ...” Shea sang out in perfect imitation. “We can, darling,” Sal hollered back. And with that we headed home for dinner.
The conversation over grilled salmon and store-bought potato salad became heated. Sal and I held equally rigid but opposing positions on the subject of Planter’s Punch. Saturday’s beach time consisted of more squabbling interrupted by comments about the Speedo-clad boy parade at the water’s edge. The words “rum,” “juice,” and “you’re such an asshole” formed the foundation of our debate. We finally agreed to use Quaker principles: we had to reach consensus on every ingredient and proportion.

Well, we followed the rules but didn’t act very Quakerly. There was far too much tasting and giggling, and Sal and I were already flying high by the time Dan and Sean came downstairs. Sal spent the whole dinner laughing wildly at anything anyone said, while I (I am told) simply passed out at the table. Sal says everybody loved the punch, but I can’t remember the evening at all.

Planter’s Punch
This recipe makes enough for six drinks
1-cup dark rum (I prefer Havana Club Rum)
½-cup orange juice
½-cup pineapple juice
¼-cup unsweetened lime juice
¼-cup Orange Curacao (Sal’s idea)
¼-cup brandy (my idea; I like Azteca de Oro)
Pour all ingredients into a pitcher. Let it blend and chill for a few hours. Then serve over a limited amount of ice.

(Note: Some people add grenadine; we say “yuck!” Some people stick foofy little fruit slices on the edge of the glass – slivers of orange or lime. We say, “Who wants a piece of orange going up a nostril?” I, for one, don’t like anyone or anything getting between me and my drinks.)
Ed Sikov is the author of Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis and other books about films and filmmakers.

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