We’re mixing the Mississippi Planter’s Punch to celebrate the unveiling of the Boll Weevil Monument on December 11, 1919. We don’t often drink in honor of an insect that decimates crops, but it’s not every day that a town decides to celebrate a scourge. That said, it’s likely that this monument will have far fewer visitors than, say, the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial.
As you’ll see, both the Mississippi Planter’s Punch recipe and the memorial itself fit the metaphor of making lemonade out of lemons. And, of course, if you’re overwhelmed with lemons you can always include Whiskey Sours or Sidecars to diversify.
The Boll Weevil Monument
The Boll Weevil Monument resides in Enterprise, Alabama, down in the southeast portion of the state. And strangely enough, they erected this tribute to the bug for its profound influence on their economy.
The boll weevil, you see, is a beetle that eats cotton buds and flowers. It’s a tiny thing, native to central Mexico, that decided to migrate north in the late 19th century. It showed up in Alabama in 1915, got to work, and by 1918 whole crops of cotton were lost.
It turns out that in 1910 a gentleman named H.M. Sessions had moved to Enterprise and started an agricultural supply and mule sale business. Mr. Sessions was also keen on peanuts and saw an opportunity to convert the area to peanut farming. Sessions convinced an indebted farmer, C.W. Baston, to go in with him on this.
Their first crop of peanuts was purchased by other farmers looking for a change in crops. Debts were paid, the sun shined, farmers learned to diversify their crops and money rolled in.
A local businessman named Bon Fleming got the idea to build a statue honoring the boll weevil as a catalyst for change. He helped finance it, and on December 11, 1919, the statue was dedicated.
The monument itself is vaguely vaguely reminiscent of Statue of Liberty, only thirteen rather than 151 feet tall. But instead of residing on its own Island the Boll Weevil Monument sits at the intersection of College and Main Street in Enterprise’s business district. And yes, instead of raising a torch this monument hoists a giant boll weevil.
As expected, the sculptural boll weevil has been repeatedly stolen. What’s there now is a polymer replica, guarded by a security camera. The original is doubtless in some college fraternity’s house.
Mississippi Planter’s Punch
The Boll Weevil Monument may be in Alabama, but the crop scourge was across the cotton-growing South. So we don’t find it odd to turn to a great regional drinking city, New Orleans, for inspiration. That leads us to the Mississippi Planter’s Punch.
The drink itself is a variation on the original Planter’s Punch, which comes from Jamaica. The original was first published in the September 1878 issue of the London magazine Fun and is made up of Jamaican rum, lime juice and sugar. There have been a variety of Planter’s Punches over time. Sometimes they were not for the better, when after World War II the term Planter’s Punch started to mean rum and any fruit juice rather than a specific drink. We’re out to do it right, so we’re sticking with a pre-war recipe.
The Mississippi Planter’s Punch recipe comes to us from Stanley Clisby Arthur’s seminal 1937 work New Orleans Cocktails and how to mix ‘em. It’s similar to the original in basic structure but uses a variety of spirits and lemon rather than lime juice. Importantly, it’s clearly directed toward relief from the boll weevil and other maladies, such as charbon (anthrax among livestock). As Mr. Arthur wrote,
“If this cooler doesn’t make a Mississippi cotton planter forget about the boll weevil, charbon and high water, give up trying to make him forget. All that is lacking in the recipe is a shady gallery, a rocking chair, and a palmetto fan.”
Mississippi Planter's Punch
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Add all ingredients except club soda to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into tall glass filled with ice.
- Top with club soda and stir briefly.
- Rinse and repeat.