JJ Johnson's Quick Tips For The Best Rum Punch - Exclusive

Chef JJ Johnson's grandfather was from Barbados and his internationally-acclaimed approach to cooking draws on the culinary traditions of African Caribbean cuisine, so it makes sense that he has some opinions when it comes to rum punch, which has long been associated with the tropical islands in this part of the world. "Barbados makes the best punch," Johnson declared to Food Republic at the Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Fest's Jerk Jam event.

"Rum punch solidifies the Caribbean, and everybody argues about who makes the best rum punch," he elaborated. "I think, for me, it's Barbados, Anguilla, and then The Bahamas. I know I'm opening a restaurant here [in The Bahamas], but I'm an honest person." When asked for tips on how to make the best iteration of this classic cocktail, Johnson had two simple words: "Fresh juice."

Besides its namesake liquor, rum punch is typically prepared with a mix of fruit juices including pineapple, orange, and lime, along with grenadine and a maraschino cherry for garnish. Though you can find these juices ready to drink at the supermarket, Johnson asserts that it's worth the effort to squeeze your fruit just before making your cocktail to enjoy these bright flavors at their freshest.

Stirring, shaking, and making rum punch your own

Besides using freshly squeezed juice, Johnson had some other suggestions for how to prepare a perfect rum punch pertaining to both the ingredients and the mixing technique. "Two rums, white and dark. Stirred, not shaken," said Johnson.

Unlike other cocktails that generally call for just one base spirit — rum punch benefits from the combination of two or more kinds of rum, which have similar, yet distinctly different flavors. This elevates the overall drink by bringing out a wider range of tasting notes from sweet to floral to funky, depending on where the alcohol was produced and how long it was aged.

Johnson also gives fantastic advice when it comes down to the rules for when to shake versus stir any cocktail. Some may say that it's best to shake any cocktail that contains fresh juice, but stirring ensures this booze-forward beverage is properly chilled while remaining light and smooth to sip.

For your own twist on this traditional cocktail, you can take inspiration from Providence Punch to add complexity to the taste of your drink by infusing the rum with black tea. Alternatively, you can skip the grenadine and incorporate another tropical element if you make your own simple syrup with hibiscus.