Why It Works
- Maple syrup dissolves easily into the mix, so you can adjust to taste depending on the rum and Madeira you use.
- Batching the drink several days in advance frees you up for more important kitchen tasks at the last minute.
This warmly spiced rum punch, adapted from bartender A. Minetta Gould of Saint Ellie in Denver, balances the bitterness of black tea with the nutty sweetness of dried figs and Bual Madeira, which is a rich-but-still-refreshing fortified wine that gets its toasty flavor from long, slow exposure to oxygen in wooden barrels that are stored in sub-tropical conditions. Don't forget to make ice at least a day in advance of serving; you'll need a big block or several trays of cubes for the punchbowl, plus regular cubes for each cup.
- 12 ounces (340g) dried figs (about 35 figs), halved
- 6 (4-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 6 black tea bags
- 1 (750ml) bottle aged rum, such as Plantation Barbados 5-Year
- 4 1/2 ounces (135ml) Bual Madeira, such as Blandy's
- Up to 1/2 ounce maple syrup (0 to 22ml), to taste (optional; see note)
- 3 lemons, sliced thinly into wheels, for garnish
At least 1 day before you want to serve the punch, make a large ice block by freezing water (filtered if desired) in a cake pan or tupperware container that will fit in your serving vessel. Alternatively, make several trays of large ice cubes. In addition, you'll want about 4 standard trays of ice cubes for serving.
In a medium saucepan, combine halved figs, cinnamon sticks, and 4 1/2 cups (1.06L) water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Let simmer 1 minute. Add tea bags, remove pan from heat, and let steep 5 minutes. Discard teabags, then allow cinnamon-fig tea to stand for 45 minutes. Fine strain into a sealable container, pressing on solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to chill, and up to 24 hours.
To Make Punch: In a large bowl, 3-quart pitcher, or other large container, stir together rum, Madeira, and cooled fig tea. Taste, adding optional maple syrup in 1/4-ounce additions until desired sweetness level is reached (you may not need any, depending on the sweetness of your rum and Madeira). The punch can be served right away or refrigerated, well sealed, up to 6 days.
When ready to serve, transfer punch to a punch bowl and stir well. Add the prepared large ice block or several trays of large ice cubes, plus all but 12 of the lemon wheels. Serve punch in ice-filled cups, garnishing each with a reserved lemon wheel.
Punch bowl and ladle, fine mesh strainer
You may want to adjust the drink's sweetness by stirring in a little easily-dissolved maple syrup, but taste the mixture first; the rum and Madeira you use may be sweet enough to get the drink in balance without any added sugar.