Leave your preconceived notions about fruity punches at the door. Ti' punch is a delicious, simple and very strong rum-based mixed drink made with high-proof rum and very little of anything else.
Ti' punch is popular in the French Caribbean where rhum agricole rules the roost. Rhum agricole by the way, is made exclusively from sugar cane juice whereas most rum is made from molasses, a by-product of sugar production. It is made in Martinique, Haiti and Guadeloupe and even carries an official Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) in Martinique. If you've never tried rhum agricole before, I suspect you'll be blown away by the intensity of estery fruit on the nose and the comparative full-body it has relative to a standard Puerto Rican white rum.
A properly made Ti' punch contains simply cane syrup or sugar, lime and rum. Ice is optional (more on that later). Proportions vary greatly. It is a tradition to serve it chacun prépare sa propre mort which means "each prepares his own death". Now you're starting to get the idea.
The punch is traditionally made with blanc (white) rum, but can be made from aged rums as well. As with tequila, I prefer the blanc in a mixed drink as it has more of the fresh cane character.
I've made Ti' punch with Neisson blanc (Martinique) and Barbancourt blanc (Haiti). La Favorite is another fairly common rhum agricole from Martinique that I'll be trying in the future. I prefer the Neisson at 50% abv to the Barbancourt at 43% when using ice. Barbancourt is much easier to find (like at your local Bevmo) and just recently began bottling rum again after repairing the extensive damage done to the facilities during the earthquake (including the loss of $4M worth of inventory).
For the cane syrup, I've been using Depaz cane syrup from Martinique. It's got a very nice bold flavor reminiscent of the rum itself. I found it at Bevmo and expect that the 750ml bottle will last a long time. You only need about a half teaspoon or less in the punch. The Barbancourt website lists a recipe for Ti' Punch Kreyol containing 1 oz of syrup to 2 oz of rum which is way too much. You could use raw sugar or raw sugar syrup as an alternative.
Application of the lime has many schools. Some cut the lime in wedges, while I've seen many authentic pictures showing a disc cut from the side about the size of a half dollar. I've started doing this and enjoy the peel/fruit ratio. It's important to squeeze it well, expelling the oils in the process. Some drop it in the drink, others eschew this as barbaric. I add the lime to the drink.
Finally there's the ice - or not. Traditionally it was drunk without ice, probably because ice was not readily available. Without ice you have a very strong drink, basically a large shot of high-proof rum with a small squeeze of lime and some syrup. Addition of the ice, while making the drink cooler also tames the rum a bit and blends all of the flavors. I like to add a few cubes of ice to my punch.
Even with the ice, this is a very strong drink. What's so nice about it is that even the small amount of lime and sugar totally transform the rum into something more balanced and well-rounded. But not at the cost of the rum's character and flavor which really comes across.
2 oz. Rhum agricole blanc (preferably 50% abv)
dash of cane syrup (substitute raw sugar or raw sugar syrup)
disc-shaped slice of lime cut from the side or lime wedge
Add a dash of cane syrup to an old-fashioned glass. Squeeze lime over the syrup making sure to expel as much of the oil as possible. Add rum. Add 3-4 cubes of ice, stir and enjoy.
Note: Photo taken from Caribbean Spirits website