Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was born on this day, 28th May, in 1908. To mark the occasion, I prepared a rum punch inspired by a concoction known as ‘poor man’s thing’, which Ian Fleming would serve to guests at the end of their stay at Goldeneye, his winter home in Jamaica.
In his 1966 biography of Ian Fleming, John Pearson gives the recipe for the drink, as told to him by Violet Cummings, Fleming’s housekeeper at Goldeneye:
“You have the skin of the orange, skin of the lemon. You poor in a bottle of cheap Three Daggers rum on top. Put in sugar. Put on oven. Keep stirring. Set light to dish. Carry the ‘poor man’s thing’ into guests.”
There may have been variations. In John Pearson’s recently published volume, Ian Fleming: the notes (Queen Anne Press, 2020), Ivar Bryce, Ian Fleming’s closest friend, spoke of half-filling a saucepan with the skins of lemons and grapefruit before adding sugar and cheap white rum, but the preparation is basically the same.
My recipe follows the essentials of both versions. As I prepared the punch, I wondered about the drink’s strange name (known in some accounts as ‘old man’s thing’). Is it so called because it uses fruit skins and inexpensive rum, or is it because the finished product takes on a darker hue and looks a little like homemade dark rum? I don’t know, but I am certain that the sweet and aromatic punch, though perhaps never consumed in quantity by Ian Fleming himself, nevertheless provides a fine toast to celebrate his birthday.
- Small bottle (c 350ml) white rum
- 1 lemon
- 1 small or medium orange
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. Discard the juice or, better still, save it for something else. Cut each half into half again, and put the quarters into a smallish saucepan. Pour in the rum, which should just about cover the fruit. Add the sugar, then put the pan over a medium heat. Keep stirring as the rum heats up.
When the sugar has dissolved and small bubbles begin to form at the top of the liquid, remove the pan from the heat. Put a lighted match to the rum and allow the rum to flame for about a minute – I guess the amount of time it would have taken to carry the pan from the kitchen to guests at Goldeneye and marvel at the sight. (Take great care with this bit.) Cover the pan with a lid to extinguish the flame.
Strain the punch into a jug, allow to cool, and pour into glasses to serve. As you drink, pretend you’re an honoured guest of Ian Fleming at Goldeneye.