On this episode of “Cocktail College,” host Tim McKirdy chats about the Ti’ Punch with Christian Favier, beverage manager at Charleston’s The Ordinary. Simple yet complex, the Ti’ Punch incorporates a simple yet powerful trio of ingredients: rum, lime, and sugar. Tune in to learn more.
Christian Favier’s Ti’ Punch Recipe
- 1 quarter-sized dollop of cane syrup
- 1 lime coin
- 2 ounces rhum agricole, such as Neisson Blanc
- Add all ingredients to a rocks glass.
- Mix using a swizzle stick.
CHECK OUT THE CONVERSATION HERE
Tim McKirdy: Hey, this is Tim McKirdy, and welcome to VinePair’s “Cocktail College.” Christian Favier, the Ti’ Punch really is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?
Christian Favier: It sure is. There has never been a more well put together trio in any sense.
T: Yeah. Especially in that bar sphere and just, they are three seemingly simple ingredients, very straightforward. But the results and the possibilities seem endless. We’ve covered a couple of those on the show before, the most notable of which is the Daiquiri. More recently, we’ve done the Caipirinha, and today we’re here to talk about the Ti’ Punch. What a great drink that is.
C: About as good as it gets.
T: Through that lens of those three ingredients and the drink that we’re focusing on today, can you explain how it differs? What makes this notable? What makes this different from those other drinks that do apply that combination?
C: Absolutely. So Ti’ Punch is different, specifically in its proportions. When you talk about that holy trinity of rum, lime, and sugar, a lot of times we’re talking about balance and how to balance those three ingredients in perfect harmony. Especially when you speak on the Daiquiri and you speak on the Caipirinha and even the offshoots in the Mojito, you have this idea of enough lime to balance out the sugar, so you get this sweet and sour. And then those ingredients with the rum are softening it, and it’s becoming this very cohesive drink. Ti’ Punch is a rum drink. Ti’ Punch is some seasoned rum — rum seasoned with some lime and sugar — rather than a harmonious combination of the three.
The History Behind the Ti’ Punch
T: Thank you. I think that’s a great explanation of how this differs. And I love that idea of this being a seasoned rum. As we’ll get into when we look at the proportions and things. It really is different from those other specs there, almost in a way of what we’ve come to expect when it comes to cocktails in general or the way that we approach cocktails these days. This being that seasoned rum, as you mention. Let’s talk about the rum. We don’t need to get too far into it. We’ll do that later. But the rum is what makes this drink different and gives it an identity. Can you tell us where this is coming from in the rum, specifically, that we’re using for this?
C: Absolutely. So Ti’ Punch is made specifically from rhum agricole. Rhum agricole is traditionally coming from the French Caribbean islands. Nowadays, it’s made in a lot of places. But you’re talking about the rum made in the French Caribbean, specifically from sugar cane juice as opposed to molasses. And this was due to the necessity of the sugar cane planters on the islands. Where it is coming from originally is Martinique, who kind of spearheaded the idea of making rum with sugar cane juice as opposed to the byproduct of sugar production.
T: Fantastic. And when we look at that name as well, I think one of the notable things about this is that in the French-speaking Caribbean, the “Ti” stands for “petite.” So we’re talking about a small punch here. That’s my interpretation. That’s my understanding. Is that correct, on the name of the drink, and how does that tie back to Martinique as well?
C: Yeah, absolutely. You look at the name Ti’ Punch, which is “Petit Punch.” The first time you ever really see that written is in 1890. There’s a book called “Two Years in the French West Indies.” The first time anybody was writing about Ti’ Punch was in the 1890s. But you know about punch as an idea, and George Washington was drinking punch before America was a country. You see punch throughout history. You see punch for as long as rum has existed. So it’s safe to say that punch was being drunk in the French Caribbean for a lot longer than 1890. It’s just the Ti’ Punch in that name given to it that might have come a little bit later. The petite part of it is a reference to the fact that it is a smaller serve in general and not meant to be a whole cocktail, but also in the ingredients being used in a much smaller quantity.
T: Back in that time, do we have any idea of what that serve might have looked like? You mentioned it’s probably on the smaller side compared to other drinks, but just in terms of build or things like that, are we familiar? Do we know what that might have looked like in the 1890s and whatnot?
C: Not specifically. There’s not a lot of great written history for when and where this drink, and where French rum in general, gets its origins. In that “Two Years in the French West Indies” book, Lafcadio Hearn writes about how it’s just rum and a little bit of sugar swizzled in a small glass. It forgoes the lime altogether and then more noticeably, the ice. But besides that, we don’t really see people talking about it until probably another 20 and 30 years. Rum companies start to capitalize on the Ti’ Punch. At that time, it was already a staple in Martinique culture.
T: Very nice. And you mentioned something there that I really want us to dive into, which is the lack of ice early on. Now, of course, it’s a conversation that we have a lot. The ice industry is something that builds up over time, and it’s easy to forget that it was in no way as readily available as we have it now. But the temperature of this drink, in particular, is one that continues to drive conversations. It’s certainly something to talk about, because are there a few schools of thought?
C: 100 percent. I think it all comes with the caveat that everybody should drink how they want to drink and drink what they enjoy drinking. This drink and no drink is a monolith in how it can be enjoyed. When you’re talking about how it’s drunk in Martinique and how it’s always been drunk in Martinique, you’re talking about sans ice. There’s no ice in a Ti’ Punch when it’s being served to you in Martinique. And that is to say, if you ask for some ice, they’re not going to scoff at you. They’re not going to turn their nose up at you. They’re going to give you some ice. And I’m sure that there are plenty of people who are born and raised there who do drink their Ti’ Punch with ice. It’s just not a traditional way. You see a lot of modern bartenders kind of taking that formula as a suggestion and seeing how they can make the Ti’ Punch a great drink for maybe a more Western palate in terms of chilled down and diluted.
T: That’s super interesting that there are these multiple interpretations and it speaks to that idea of a collision between different approaches over time and also different traditions, in a good way. What do we gain by serving this drink at room temperature versus, say, with ice or chilled beforehand or built over ice? What are some of the advantages and the pros of that column?
C: It’s a very casual serve. This is not the type of drink that you go into a bar and get. This is something that you are drinking in your backyard. This is something that you’re drinking while walking through the market. This is something that you are drinking on your break at work. Realistically, we’re talking about Martinique.
T: Very nice.
C: You’re in the store looking at bags, and the person behind the counter just whips out a bottle and pours themselves a little Ti’ Punch. It’s so inherent to the culture that I think there is that part of it where it’s not this ritualistic cocktail. Where there’s this whole spiritual or ethereal side to it, where there’s this whole thing to mixing and getting the ice right and getting the dilution perfect. It is a very casual serve that you can just kind of throw together and just sip over time. I think the other part of not having ice is that you’re not going to have any dilution or temperature change. It just is what it is.
T: Yeah, that’s great. I would imagine, too, that even though we are adding those seasonings, this is a wonderful way to appreciate the rhum agricole. If we’re tasting spirits analytically or just for the first time, we don’t put those over ice. We don’t shake them with ice first and then strain them. The way that we like to do it first would be at that room temperature, ideally not too hot, but that’s the way that we can really appreciate the spirit most.
C: That’s absolutely right. There aren’t a ton of producers of agricole, and I can say that every single producer of agricole that I’ve tasted does so in a very thoughtful way. They make rum in a way that they think about the aroma and the taste and who’s drinking it and in what context they’re drinking it. I think that if you’re going to be drinking it neat or you’re going to be drinking it with a little seasoning, as we say, then it doesn’t need to be diluted down. It’s meant to drink exactly how it was made.
T: And then you also mentioned that traditionally or if you go to Martinique, this is maybe not a cocktail that features on menus, especially perhaps in cocktail-focused establishments. Is that also the case over here in the U.S.? Because obviously there are a number of bartenders who have focused themselves more on the rum-based drinks and island or Tiki-adjacent cocktails. Would you say that this drink does feature on menus or, again, it’s one of those ones that perhaps it’s so simple that it’s hard to find a place for it?
C: Absolutely. It’s a really difficult drink to have served in a bar. At The Ordinary, we really focus on those classic Caribbean drinks and really focus on drinks that were invented on the islands. And it’s something that I wrestled with. I knew I had to have a Ti’ Punch on the menu because I really wanted to make it accessible for people. I didn’t know how to do it and how to claim that this is the best way to drink this drink. Because I don’t believe that drinking it at a bar is the best way to drink it. Really what we had to go with was another kind of tradition in Martinique, which is a saying that they have there specifically in regards to Ti’ Punch. They say, “Chacun prépare sa propre mort,” which translates to “each prepares their own death.” It’s their approach to serving Ti’ Punch. If you go into a restaurant, if you go into a bar and you order a Ti’ Punch, what they’ll do is they’ll put a bottle of rum, a glass, a couple of slices of lime, and a bottle of cane syrup on your table. They do not make it for you. They will if you ask, but they do not make it for you. They give you all of the tools to make it yourself because it is a very personal drink, and the way that you drink it is a very personal thing. And so we did that same thing. How can we make this gussied up a little bit, but still follow that same idea of “Here’s your lime, here’s your sugar, here’s your rum, and make the drink that you want to drink.”
T: How does that work from a charging guest’s perspective? I know that seems very bland or a boring aspect, but just on the rum side of things. How do you charge for that? How do you allow for that?
C: Well, I think you give the recommendation and you sell it in a way. Maybe for the ideal way that you can be drinking, this is how you should approach it. And then from there, you keep a watchful eye. But you also trust people to know the space they’re in and to pay respect to the ingredients and the people working there and to the bartenders. And nobody thus far has tried to pull a fast one.
T: I think and that really speaks to the nature of the drink, too. There’s this kind of trust and familiarity with the whole idea of the cocktail itself. It also reminds me of those incredible scenes we see in movies. But I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a bar where someone sits down and they get the bottle and they just pour themselves shot after shot. And I’ve always wondered, are they measuring how much is in the bottle beforehand, or is it just this trust, as you say?
C: People will wave me down and they’ll be like, “Is it OK if I do another one?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s what it’s there for.”
The Ingredients Used in the Ti’ Punch
T: That’s a really cool way to serve this and a really nice offering, too. If it’s yourself that’s on the other side of that bar and you’re preparing it, we’ll get into your ideal preparation method and thoughts towards it, but I’m keen to hear what you’re looking for from the drink itself. What are you hoping to get? What are you expecting when you approach this wonderful little trio of ingredients?
C: I think that it’s really difficult to mess up rum, lime, and sugar. But I think what I’m looking for from a very idealized version all comes down to the sugar and the lime. As long as you’re serving the agricole, I’m happy. But when it comes to the sugar and the lime, that’s kind of where you can get into a sticky situation. With the sugar, if you give me simple syrup, that for me won’t quite cut it. I think that the drink benefits heavily from having a richer style of cane syrup, which has been refuted by other people. Some people use distilled white sugar and they love it. That’s awesome. Yeah, go for it. For me personally, I always want that richer cane syrup and then the lime, which if you go to another French-speaking country or you go to France and you get a Ti’ Punch, unlike in America, you might get a funny look in a bar in America for Ti’ Punch. You go to France and they say, “Oh yeah, absolutely. Coming right up.” And then they’ll give you a big fat lime wedge to squeeze in there, which is not the way to go. The way that you should always have it, and the way that it’s always served, will be with a lime coin where you’re talking about 90 percent to 99 percent of just the skin and the pith with maybe a little bit of flesh and a couple of drops of juice in there. But you’re really looking to season it with the lime oil and not the lime juice.
T: That’s fascinating. Again, from an operational perspective, this is something that you offer. What does that look like in terms of the rest of the lime? Are you still able to juice that and use it for other things? How many coins can you get from one lime when you’re preparing it for this drink?
C: You can get three coins out of a lime. And I think that’s actually the perfect amount of lime if you cut it at that little cross-section and you basically make a triangle out of the lime by cutting three coins off of the sides. We have a little holder off to the side where we keep all of those spent limes. We’ll juice them, we’ll take the rest of the peel, we’ll make a lime cordial out of those as well. So none of the lime ever goes to waste.
T: Very nice. I’m assuming when it comes to service, this is not something that’s going to take you a long time to prepare. So it’s probably not something that when you’re going into service, you want to prepare 20, 30 of these coins? Maybe you just have a small amount on hand and be prepared to create some others à la minute.
C: I’m zealous about the Ti’ Punch, obviously. But we’re in Charleston, S.C., and I don’t know if it’s caught on quite yet. So we’re not making a hundred of them a night quite yet.
T: I would imagine also from that perspective of getting the lime oil and the freshness both from the juice and the citrus there, is it something you actually definitely want to be prepared to maintain that freshness, so that no part of that fruit is starting to dry out a little bit?
C: Totally. You definitely can cut it to order. You should be dropping the lime in there anyway. Because I think that as that lime sits in the drink over time, you just get a little bit more maceration of the oil. Yeah, always go with fresh, room temperature, definitely.
T: Wonderful. It’s fun here from our perspective at “Cocktail College,” because lime is an ingredient that comes up in many different drinks. And over time, it becomes hard to say, “OK, what else can we say about the lime on top of, ‘fresh is best?'” Maybe there are certain preparations like the Gimlet where we’re creating a cordial. But that’s fun to hear about the lime coins and something that hasn’t come up, we haven’t explored it before. So thanks for sharing that.
C: It’s interesting how much rhum agricole and lime oil play so nicely together. There’s this great technique called the royal shake, where you throw a citrus peel in your shaker when you shake up a drink. Any time I’m making a shake and/or a traditional Daiquiri, but with Rum agricole, you throw a lime peel in the shaker with it because that little bit of extra lime oil really sets off the agricole.
T: Yeah, classic technique right there. It’s one we’ve maybe chatted a little bit about before. For the next ingredient, I want to go with rhum agricole. Because I’m thinking we could go down the cane sugar, of course, but I think exploring agricole first helps us set up what we’re looking for from that sweetening component afterward. So you mentioned that this is fermented, then distilled from fresh cane juice. Can you talk a little bit more about the production process? And then ultimately, if you would like to share some of your favorite producers for this spirit and also this drink?
C: To get into why we make agricole the way we do, you can kind of rewind to why it was started in the first place. Martinique and other French-speaking Caribbean countries didn’t always make agricole rum. They made traditional-style rum for probably the same amount of time they’ve been making agricole. But then you go into 1811, the British put a blockade on Napoleon, so he wasn’t able to bring sugar in from the Caribbean into France. He heavily invested in these colleges that were specifically dedicated to cultivating sugar from beets. And by 1840, they had huge production for turning beets into sugar. By 1840, we’re talking 5 percent of the whole world’s sugar was made from beets in France.
C: And by 1880, that goes up to 50 percent of the world’s sugar which is made in France, or by then throughout Europe, by beets. So French sugar production was effectively crippled over the course of 50 years. And you have these islands that were dedicated to growing and processing sugar that no longer had an industry but still had all of the resources. What happens is there’s no molasses because there is no sugar. And so they’re taking that sugarcane that they’re now having to cut down every year anyway, they’re crushing it, they’re juicing it fresh, and they’re letting that ferment and distill the same way that they were doing with the molasses. And you have your first agricoles coming out. These are coming out of Creole column stills somewhere in between a rudimentary pot still and some column stills that were coming over from Cognac that were kind of put together. They make a very, very unique flavor that really lends itself to that rum. By the late 1800s, really, you had agricole in full swing as the only type of rum being made in Martinique and most of the French islands. And then you have 100 years until 1996 that they gained an AOC status. Martinique is still technically France today, and because of that, rum agricole gained AOC status, which is the legal denomination. That is what rum is and isn’t in Martinique. Whether it be a good thing or a bad thing, you have a lot of rules that were imposed on agricole rum-making that dictate its quality, the quantity that can be made, who can make it, and what type of sugar cane they can use. Now we’re talking about 25 or 26 years of rum production. The AOC was rewritten in 2014. It’s a really unique look at how making a designation of what rum is and isn’t would look like on other islands. There’s a big conversation happening in the rum world about geographical indicators and designations of Jamaican rum and Barbados rum and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t have a specific opinion on the matter, but we can look to Martinique AOC as, does it work?
T: Yeah. There certainly seems to be a conversation within rum about having maybe slightly more guidelines. I think it’s maybe quite intertwined with this idea of transparency, of processes and origin and things like that. I think, as you say, it’s something that’s very hard to judge. Who should we be the ones to judge? But I think there are definitely some sort of checks in that column in favor of doing that. And like you say, this AOC there in Martinique does give us this concrete evidence of what it looks like and how that can maybe maintain an identity.
C: Absolutely. And it’s all about transparency. The argument against it is that it stifles creativity. But I think that there is variation around there. When you know that there’s nothing being added to your rum and you know there’s no coloring or flavoring or shady business practices, then you can kind of have an ease of mind about the product that you’re buying and the money that you’re spending. With Martinique agricole, you also have this built-in sustainability, right? They are limited in the amount of sugar cane they can use per hectare that they grow. They can only use sugar cane from designated areas that are known to have good soil that reproduces year-over-year. And in a lot of cases, the byproduct of the sugar cane crushing is used to power their distilleries themselves. There’s so much good happening out of these designations and out of these distilleries because of it. I think the coolest of them is La Favorite, whose entire production and entire operation were being run historically by burning the leftover fibers from the crushed sugar cane. Now they have a little museum and shop there, so they have a little electricity going on. But historically, that’s how they were powering everything, and they were making really, really, really incredible rum and still are. They’re certainly one of my favorites. It’s really hard to find some of their more aged stuff around here. But if you can get your hands on it, it’s some of the best.
T: One thing that’s interesting about agricole, in general, is you would imagine that fresh-pressed cane juice is sweeter than molasses in many respects. Molasses, of course, has an even more complex profile. But in terms of the final spirit, this lands a lot more on the drier side than a molasses-based rum.
C: Yeah, it’s a lot drier. It’s grassy, it’s vegetal, it’s bright, and it’s sharp. And I think that has a lot to do with what comes through on the other side of distilling, which is all of that sugar that’s left over. I think a lot of that is used up in the fermentation, but it’s really that freshness and that real earthiness that comes from having a very fresh product. It’s really a study of terroir in spirits more than any other spirit on earth. Because that freshness varies depending on where you’re getting your sugar cane. You talk about Rhum J.M, who makes a cuvée where they’re sourcing all of their sugar cane from volcanic soils because they’re right at the base of Mt. Pelée. All of the sugar cane is coming from sugar cane grown on the volcano, so it’s all volcanic soil. And then you move all the way down to somewhere like La Mauny in the very south of the island where it’s very mountainous and very jungly. It’s a hop, skip, and jump from the ocean. And you get this much more saline, rockier-driven product. It’s pretty wild that it, on the other side of distillation, you can really taste those things. You can taste that sense of place, you can taste that terroir. I think that is the real beauty of fresh juice.
T: Yeah, absolutely. It’s also helped by those designations and whatnot. As you mentioned before, it’s those specific areas that you’re supposed to be growing in that have been identified and whatnot. For anyone that gets into spirits and this kind of thing, terroir, the idea might seem a bit more elusive. But it’s wonderful when we do discover that in a category or a style.
C: The only other place in the world of spirits that I’ve ever really tasted terroir was in Calvados with the apples. And obviously in some other sugar cane juice-based rums as well, coming from Haiti and Guadeloupe and the Réunion, which technically are all agricole. But depending on who you ask, technically they aren’t as well. Without that legal denomination, without that AOC status, I think that there are some agricole purists who will say it’s not agricole.
C: But I think of agricole as a style and not specifically a legal designation.
T: You mentioned a little bit back there, too, with some of the Rhum J.M that the more aged styles can be tough to get hold of for the Ti’ Punch, though. What are we talking about classically here, unaged, or does it not matter? Can you basically plug whatever you want into it?
C: Yeah, I wouldn’t say whatever you want. I think that there is a certain age where there’s not a whole lot of benefit from it. I personally prefer a Ti’ Punch made with the blanc agricole. But when you’re talking about blanc agricole, you’re almost ubiquitously talking about something that’s higher proof because as they age rum in Martinique, they drop the proof down and down and down. So when you’re talking about blanc agricole, you’re usually talking about 50 to 55 percent. And as it gets older, as it spends more time in a barrel, they will prove it down because they believe that the older rum gets, the more they all start to taste the same. And it’s really in the aroma that you find the differences. They proof the rum down so the aromas kind of blossom more than they would at a higher proof. But to that, I think there’s this happy middle ground there. There’s the blanc rum and then there is the VO rum, which is your older rum. And then in between those two are the élevé sous bois, heightened by wood. And those rums really make a fantastic Ti’ Punch because they toe the line between that really bright, fresh, grassy vegetalness and where you start to get those fruits in those spices from the aged rum as well. It sits right in the middle and it’s a totally different drink than it is with blanc. But an élevé sous bois rum Ti’ Punch is really delicious.
T: And generally speaking, you mentioned higher proofs. What are you looking for? What’s your preference when it comes to proof of rum for this drink?
C: A sweet spot is 50. And with the sugar in the lime that you’ll be adding to it, it brings it down just a bit and alleviates all of that. But I think a 50 percent, 100-proof rum is kind of the sweet spot for a Ti’ Punch.
T: And then the final ingredient here, the cane syrup. How does that interact with the dryness of the finish of this rum? And what are some other points we should be looking out for, or being wary of for this drink?
C: When I think of cane syrup, I think of a very specific thing, which is that they are these plastic bottles that come with little twist knobs or sometimes glass bottles. And in Martinique, every distillery has its own cane syrup that’s meant to be used with its own rum. Obviously, most of those things are not available outside of Martinique. But it’s those very thick cane syrups that are what come to mind when I’m making a Ti’ Punch. Now, I think the equivalent is if you were to go get a lighter raw cane sugar from the grocery store or something like that and make a 2-to-1 syrup with that. It’s kind of the same idea. But I think if you can find the petite canne bottle with the twist top, that’s really what you want. And in terms of quantity, I think that’s a very wholly personal thing. I like a quarter-sized dollop. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a little bit more. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a little bit less. I’ve seen people put a proper half-ounce in there before. So it really is how you want your drink to taste, if you want it to be a sweetened rum, or if you just want it as a little salt and pepper.
How to Make Christian Favier’s Ti’ Punch Recipe
T: Why don’t we start with this now? Why don’t you talk us through your own preparation if you’re making this drink for yourself with some added quantities? Of course, this won’t be natural when we’re often talking in ounces or half-ounces or whatever. But if you’re making that drink for yourself now, I’d love to hear if you can talk us through the preparation there.
C: I’m starting with 2 ounces of a blanc agricole. And in my perfect world, I’m probably grabbing a bottle of Neisson Blanc. Neissan’s a really awesome family-owned distillery, one of the last two family-owned distilleries on Martinique. It’s bottled at 50 percent and it is really, really, really fantastic. It’s all coming from estate-grown sugar cane that’s right in this valley that’s five minutes inland from the beach. And it has this really, really fantastic complexity. In terms of blanc agricole, it might be the most complex. I guess before I start with the rum, I’m putting a quarter-sized dollop of corn syrup in the bottom of whatever rocks or glass I happen to have to lie around. Then I’m cutting off a coin of lime. For me, I do like a touch of flesh. A touch more than other people might. I like getting a couple of drops of juice in there as well, probably a quarter-teaspoon of juice, realistically. But I like a little bit of that juice to get hit in there. And then I’m doing 2 ounces of that Neisson Blanc agricole. If I happen to have a swizzle stick lying around, I’ll swizzle it all together. If I have a kitchen knife, I might use that. If I have any other tools, whatever tool I have to get it done, I’ll just mix that up. And then I’ll go sit on the patio, and I’ll start sipping it.
T: Amazing. And no ice, no additional garnish required. Just keeping it very, very simple, very laid back.
C: That’s right. No ice, no garnish. Besides just dropping that lime right in the glass.
T: Yeah, you can slip away. No worry about dilution. No worry about things changing too much or any kind of time restrictions on drinking this one. You can sip to your heart’s content.
C: That’s right. Maybe a point that I didn’t touch on enough was that I’ve drunk many, many, many Ti’ Punch before. But it’s a very contextual drink. It’s not something that I am drinking on my couch in December, and it’s not something that I’m drinking at a really nice, well-air-conditioned bar. Ti’ Punch and punch in general was a worker’s drink to help keep them cool. And I didn’t really understand the drink myself until I had had it in the context of sitting outside in 95-degree weather with 90 percent humidity, with the sun beating down on me. Someone handed me a glass of lead temperature rum, and I understood why it didn’t need ice and how magic it was to be sipping on that drink and to have this feeling of cooling wash over me. The first time I took a sip, it was something that I was trying to unlock for so long that I didn’t really get it until I had it in the context that it’s meant to drink in.
T: That’s wonderful. It definitely does seem a little bit counterintuitive there, but I feel like I need to try that imminently. Especially as it definitely is ratcheting up a little bit here in New York temperature-wise, I’m just wondering whether you have any final thoughts on this drink or today’s conversation in general that we might not have covered so far.
C: I don’t think so. With all rum drinks, and with the Ti’ Punch specifically, you gotta go to the places and try them there. If you want to really get into Jamaican rum, go to Jamaica. If you really want to get into agricole, go to Martinique. If you want to understand these things really, really well, on your next vacation, instead of going to Hawaii, go to the islands.
T: Absolutely. And I think definitely many people after today’s conversation will be convinced of what a great idea that would be, if not just to share that one experience that you described earlier. Now, we can take it into the second segment of our show here and get to know yourself a little bit more as a drinker and a bartender with our weekly questions. How does that sound?
C: It sounds fantastic.
Getting To Know Christian Favier
T: Awesome. I’m going to kick off here with question No. 1: What style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?
C: That’s an easy question, right? I’ve got a bar cart full of rum. So much so that every month, my fiancée makes me take a bottle or two into work because it starts to overflow a little bit. So it’s almost all rum.
T: And how many bottles exactly are too many bottles? Because this is a conversation that I’m having at home right now with respect to gin.
C: How many bottles are too many bottles? Probably 40.
C: It’s a tiny, tiny little apartment, tiny little bar cart. Some of them might have spilled over to the floor because they ran out of space. 40 bottles is probably too many.
T: Yeah. Well, it’s good to drink at least. That’s the upshot there. You gotta open them; you gotta drink them, right?
C: That’s right.
T: Fantastic. Question No. 2: What ingredient or tool do you think is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?
C: It’s gotta be ice. I know we just had a discussion about not using ice.
T: Making your drink without ice.
C: As a whole, I think that ice is underutilized. The whole light ice thing is always funny, but use good ice. And that doesn’t mean you have to go buy some fancy clear cubes somewhere. But if you’re having a party and you’re making drinks with crushed ice, go find your local Sonic. That’s the best pebble ice you can get. Or just a bag of ice from the grocery store that hasn’t been tainted by whatever’s sitting in your freezer at the time. And then also, I think the biggest misconception is the more ice that’s in something, the quicker that it’s going to melt. It’s the opposite, funny enough. The more ice you put in your glass up to a certain point, the slower the ice is going to melt. And if you fill your ice properly all the way to the top and heat isn’t able to escape the glass, that ice is going to stay there all day long.
T: Wonderful. Question No. 3: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?
C: The most important piece of advice that I’ve been given is that the drinks don’t matter. Obviously, I’ve spent my whole career worrying about the drinks, as do most bartenders. And we spend all this time learning and tasting and putting flavors together and reading the books and doing the research. At the end of the day, we are in the business of hospitality and taking care of people and bringing people together. If that isn’t a part of it, then the drinks don’t matter. And they never did.
T: Yeah. It’s important sometimes and so often forgotten there. It’s like you said before, it’s all about the context of the drinks that you’re having. It’s the context of where you’re drinking them. Question No. 4 here: If you could only visit one less bar in your life, what would it be?
C: Oh, man. Two come to mind immediately, so I’m going to have to give you a tie there.
T: We’ll give it to you.
C: All right. Thank you. The first would have to be Katana Kitten. It’s regularly the most fun that I have in a bar every time I’m there, and also a drinks program that really changed my perspective on drink-making as a whole. Katana Kitten has allowed me, and I’m sure many other bartenders, to know that it’s OK to have fun when making drinks.
T: They do a great job of that.
C: Yeah. The other one has got to be Two Schmucks in Barcelona. For no other reason, I think it is just one of the most well-executed bars on planet Earth. They do some of the best drinks I’ve ever had. It’s one of the most relaxed environments I’ve ever had and some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with bartenders.
T: Phenomenal. That’s one that I think might not be as familiar to most folks listening. So if your vacation this year is taking you across to Barcelona instead of the islands that we spoke about, that’s one to hit up.
C: That’s right.
T: Final question here today: If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?
C: I think about this all the time. There are so many deathbed drinks that I think are things that I would be so happy to have as my last drink. But when I really kind of boil it down to, “What is the one drink that I always crave, and then I’d be mad if I didn’t have one last one,” I think it’s the Queen’s Park Swizzle. I’ll never be mad about having that drink. I’ll never be mad about drinking that drink. But I’ll always be mad about not having that drink.
T: Oh, that’s a good one. That’s a fun one, though not one that I think has come up before. It’s definitely one we also need to discover on this show. Christian, thank you so much for your time today. I’m getting rid of my ice machine. That’s it. From here on in, I’m just going room temp.
C: Room temp all the way. That’s how you do it.
T: At least when I’m drinking rum, lime, and sugar… We have also established that ice is very important.
C: Yes, absolutely.
T: Well, thanks again for your time. This has been a blast.
C: It’s been great talking to you.
If you enjoy listening to the show anywhere near as much as we enjoy making it, go ahead and hit subscribe, and please leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts — whether that’s Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher. And please tell your friends.
Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.