Parkway Punch

Another Labor Day has come and gone. Although summer doesn't technically end until sometime around mid-September, many generally regard Labor Day as the finish line. This is especially true in New York, where the holiday is regarded as seriously as the expiration date on a carton of milk--here, the prep set make their final Hamptons retreat and gulp down their last Collins before putting their white pants and madras shorts away for another year.

For the rest of us who stay in the city on Labor Day weekend, we're treated to a deluge of tourists who consider it the perfect weekend to visit NYC. But not all is miserable that weekend, for one of the greatest highlights of the summer (if not the entire year) falls on Labor Day itself--the West Indian Parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and the pre-dawn pre-party called J'ouvert (pronounced "juvay"). A pan-Caribbean festival modeled on the pre-Lent and harvest celebrations found throughout the various Caribbean islands, the West Indian Parade is by far the largest ethnic parade in New York, easily dwarfing the NY Puerto Rican Day Parade both in size and elaborateness of the costumes and floats.

West Indian Parade dancersFloat in West Indian Parade

For this year's Labor Day I was invited to a BBQ by friends who live in Crown Heights near the parade route. Seeking to exploit my strengths--coupled with my eagerness to be exploited--my friends kindly asked if I could bring something to drink, preferably of my own creation. So I thought to myself, what better libation can there be for a group full of folks from the Caribbean than a Caribbean-style rum punch? After much consideration, deliberation, experimentation, and meditation, I came up with a drink I call Parkway Punch, a tribute to Eastern Parkway, the throughfare of the West Indian Parade route.

Parkway Punch (1 serving)
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse gold rum
1 oz Cruzan light rum
1 oz rye whiskey (used Old Overholt but Rittenhouse is also great if you can get it)
2 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz cream of coconut
1 oz pineapple juice (fresh if you can)
.5 oz Chartreuse
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Tools: shaker, strainer (blender if making for a group)

Glass: any glass vessel large enough to hold the ingredients

Place all ingredients in a shaker first with ice and shake for a few seconds as energetically as you'd wave your flag; strain into an ice-filled glass; sprinkle some nutmeg on top and garnish with an optional mint sprig.

I made this for a large group so I dispensed with individual shaking and simply multiplied the portions and placed all ingredients in a blender for a few seconds, then poured it all into a punch bowl with a huge block of ice in it, and had the nutmeg on the side for folks to individually dust their drinks with.

This is a rum punch in keeping with the traditional Caribbean style of rum punches, but with the addition of a couple non-traditional twists like Old Overholt rye which adds a rooty, cedary, and slightly bitter flavor, and Chartreuse which provides delicate notes of anise, hyssop, and herbs. The sprinkle of nutmeg at the end, in addition to being a fairly traditional punch ingredient, also helps bring out some of the nutmeg and allspice notes in the Old Overholt rye.

So another summer is in the books. The good thing about cocktails is that there are great ones for every season. Cheers! (And don't let me catch you wearing white!)

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay's cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.
Column: Happy Hour


  • Ooooh, it's my old hood!!! Having lived within spitting distance of Eastern Parkway for 6 years, I'm so happy to see you named one of your drinks after it. HOORAY!!! This drink sounds like it certainly lives up to the unexplainable craziness and tropicalness of this festival- the music gets so loud in Crown Heights all day, all night. Plus the entire neighborhood wreaks of a certain herb. Sigh, I miss it so.


    kayoko on

  • There's only one Brooklyn, that's for sure. There's nothing like a neighborhood where half is West Indian and other half is Hasidic.

    And yeah it's just nutmeg. Btw this is a great drink to make as a batch for a party—even better than when mixed individually.

    Paystyle on

  • Is that just nutmeg sprinkled on top? Also looks like chili powder, which I think would add a nice kick to the drink, actually.

    kayoko on

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