Maui Cocktail of the Month: Punch Like it Oughta Be

Gone are the days when spiked punch was tantamount to a bowl of syrupy juice watered down with your parents’ bottom shelf booze. Mixologists at The Mill House take a much more sophisticated spin on the festive favorite with their this-is-so-good-I-savor-every-sip Punch Like it Oughta Be.

Punch like it outa be
Punch like it outa be

As tempting as it might be to invoke your inner frat boy and devour this drink in one sip, trust that Punch Like it Oughta Be is meant to be relished. This craft cocktail is a seriously nuanced beauty, where each element stands on its own and yet compliments the next, resulting in a libation so luscious you’ll wonder why spiked punch isn't being revamped by more top bars. Wondering what sort of miracle is behind this sublime cocktail? Here’s how The Mill House puts the punch back into the party:

Ingredient #1: Pineapple

The superiority of all fabulous fruit-centric cocktails rests on the quality of its ingredients.  Mornings at The Mill House start with a squeeze, where bartenders prep for the day by juicing fresh lemons and limes. (To note: There are no store-bought juices used at The Mill House bar, explaining why all of their craft cocktails taste like a slice of paradise.) On that list: field-fresh pineapple, which is at the core of this killer concoction. Bartenders muddle the fruit to give the punch a sweet touch of tartness and texture.

pineapple
pineapple

Morsel to Muse Over

Hala kahiki—or pineapple—was first planted on Maui on the northeastern shores of Haiku. Controversy surrounds its introduction to the Hawaiian Islands, with some parties thanking the horticultural talents of Spanish sailor Don Francisco de Paula Marin for establishing the first plant at the start of the 18th century and others pointing to the Baldwin patriarch, who launched what ultimately became Maui Pineapple Company, Ltd. in 1903. Whatever the case may be, Maui once reigned as the largest producer of pineapple in the United States, possessing over 2,000 acres of the spiky fruit. The much-loved “Maui Gold” is a hybrid variety known for its lip-smacking sweetness and low acidity. Today, visitors and locals alike ship whole pineapples to their pals on the mainland, making good on the suggestion that we should all spread the spirit of aloha.

Ingredient #2: Berries

Few things say sunshine better than strawberries. Here in the land of the eternal summer, locally-grown strawberries are muddled to a pretty pulp to give the rum punch even more pizzazz. While not native to Hawaii--strawberries weren't introduced to the islands until Westerners made contact in the 1700s--they thrive on the slopes of Haleakala, where the fertile soil and cooler temps provide the perfect conditions for these gems to grow.

muddled berries
muddled berries

Food for Thought

Ever wonder how this popular fruit got its name? You're not alone: the origin of the word hasn't been solidly determined, but some speculate that it's derivative of "strewn berries" because of the way the berries are strewn on the plant. Others hypothesize that it's from the antiquated word "strew," which means to spread--quite fitting, consider that the plant's runners have a tendency to scatter. Others still surmise the name is due to the fact that the berries are bedded with straw in colder climates. Whatever the case may be, we're with The Beatles: it's nothing to get hung about.

Ingredient #3: Cold-pressed Sugarcane

Sugarcane was once a serious business in Hawaii, drawing close to 350,000 immigrants to the islands during its industrial boom. In 2016, Maui underwent the end of a critical era when Alexander & Baldwin’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company—the last sugar plantation in the state—officially closed its doors, making way for new endeavors on its 36,000-acre farm. The tall stalks of sweet goodness are still embraced by members of The Mill House, where mixologists take measures to cold-press the plant for use as a natural sweetener. Its inclusion in their Punch Like it Oughta Be smooths out the sharpness of tropical fruit, giving guests the heavenly combo of sour and sweet.

cold pressed sugarcane
cold pressed sugarcane

Didja know?

“Cold-pressed” is a process that omits pasteurization, thereby maintaining the integrity of the product. Raw, unpasteurized sugarcane is chock-full of energy-boosting nutrients, including potassium, Vitamin B, and zinc, all of which are rich antioxidants that can stave off airport colds—suggesting that a stop at The Mill House on the way to your hotel might be the sagest and most spirited way to kick off your Maui stay.

Ingredient #4: Dark and Light Kōloa Rum

The Mill House prides itself on their polished taste in liquors, ensuring that every cocktail raises the proverbial bar on libation-perfection. Rum is a nostalgic elixir for many, our go-to mixer before we graduate to the supposedly upper echelons of high-end vodka, whiskey, and wine. But when it comes to party punch, The Mill House knows that there’s no better booze to make this tiki-esque spirit sing.

And this ain’t your Captain Morgan's, sailors. The Mill House uses dark and light Kōloa rum, which is expertly handcrafted on the island of Kauai. Why both blends? Besides why the heck not, each gives the cocktail a distinct layer of depth and flavor. Light rum—which is distilled in a clear cask that preserves its lucid hue—leans toward the sweeter, lighter side, while dark rums are aged in oak, ensuing in an amber glow and a bolder taste reminiscent of caramel.

dark and light rum
dark and light rum

Icebreaker

Rumor has it that when Captain Cook sailed to the shores of Kauai in 1778, he and his seamen had barrels of rum stashed in the holds of their ship. Hawaiians took note, and rum production began in the town of Kōloa in 1837. Distilled with crystal-clear water from Mt. Wai’ale’ale—one of the wettest places on Earth—and sugarcane rooted in rich volcanic soil, Kōloa's single batches of twice-distilled rum are known for their richness, clarity, and supple, caney flavor.

It isn’t just The Mill House’s Punch Like it Oughta Be that’s something to write a postcard home about: the lush plantation upon which it operates inspires most of their handcrafted cocktails. From the “Frangipani” with syrup from hand-picked plumerias to the “Mezcal Old Fashioned” with Surinam cherries, each drink pays homage to timeless classics but with an innovative, plantation-fresh twist.

spiked punch
spiked punch

Looking for something on the lighter side? Mixologists are happy to go faux by replacing alcohol with fresh coconut water—a replenishing compliment to their handcrafted fruit juices.

Whether it's virgin or packing a mean punch, this local fave is a bit convivial, a tad chic, and 100% Maui made--much like The Mill House itself.

cocktail of the month comments
cocktail of the month comments

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