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#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 43: Ti Punch

Travel won’t be on the cards for some time yet, but I can try and transport us somewhere exotic through food and drink. The destination this time: the Caribbean, more specifically, the French West Indies. I also went a little off-piste with the challenge…

I present the iconic Ti Punch, a rum-based cocktail (often written as Ti-Punch or Ti’ Punch in French websites). It’s not what I would think of as a punch, but is instead similar to a Brazilian caipirinha, or Cuban daiquiri, made simply with rum, lime, sugar (or sugar syrup).


Rhum agricole = agricultural rum?

My source recipe and numerous other websites explained that is traditionally made with white rhum agricole, a new one on me.

I learned that this rum differs in that it’s made from fresh sugar cane juice, which is then fermented, whereas industrial rums are made from molasses (Source:

Based on the sources I found, this seems to have been variously rendered in English as ‘rhum agricole’, ‘agricole rum’, and ‘agricultural rum’.

Cocktail-specific terminology

This being my first cocktail translation, I encountered a few new terms:

Verre old fashioned This is the glass I was to make and serve my drink in. Of course, its name refers to the whisky-based cocktail served in this glass. But it was interesting to see it referred to like this in French. In English, different terms to describe this type of glass include, old fashioned glass, rocks glass, lowball, tumbler, and whisk(e)y glass. I think using ‘old fashioned glass’ in English could be a little confusing though, and I opted simply for ‘whiskey glass’.

Rhum arrangé The spiel accompanying the recipe mentions a rhum arrangé, which is: un rhum dans lequel ont macéré des épices, des fruits et/ou des feuilles, or ‘a rum in which we’ve marinated spices, fruits and/or leaves.’ Most of the English references that I found retain the French name, but if you added a description, I think ‘infused rum’ or ‘spiced rum’ could work quite nicely.

Écraser and pilon Neither of these are specific to cocktails. In French that is. Basically, écraser means to crush, flatten, squeeze, or squash… you get the idea. While pilon in a cooking context is a pestle. My source recipe used them in this sentence:

Ajoutez le sucre en poudre et écrasez l’ensemble à l’aide d’un pillon* [sic]
‘Add the caster sugar and [verb] everything with a [noun]’

*I believe pillon is a typo for pilon here.

Now, in a non-cocktail context, we could translate the verb and noun with ‘crush’ and ‘pestle’ respectively, or something similar.

But in the cocktail world, there are specific terms for both: ‘muddle’ and ‘muddler’.

Then again, saying ‘muddle everything with a muddler’ is superfluous – we don’t need both here. So we could render this as ‘muddle everything together’, or ‘crush everything together with a muddler’.

‘Cooking’ – or preparing

It’s a very straightforward recipe, so no problems here. That said, I didn’t have any agricultural rum, and went instead for some nice aged rum from elsewhere in the Caribbean. It was a tad strong for me, so I diluted mine with ice cubes and a little water, and it was delicious and refreshing.

Recipes ideas and substitutions

  • Although agricultural rum is clearly the thing to use, if you can’t get that, use another tasty type of rum.

  • Use whatever sugar or sugar syrup you have, or swap for honey.

  • You could swap the limes for lemons if you can’t get them, although I do think limes give it that extra kick

Next time

Maybe something else exotic, or perhaps something seasonal from closer to the UK? You’ll have to wait and see…

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