Rumbelievable: Tampa Bay has its own rum punch called The Red Lady

Founder Jarred Carter first mixed the blend of Caribbean rum and island fruits and berries in 2008.

click to enlarge The Red Lady's label depicts a woman dressed in the refreshing liquid that awaits inside the bottle. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
The Red Lady's label depicts a woman dressed in the refreshing liquid that awaits inside the bottle.

That night was like any other for the University of Notre Dame junior. Jarred Carter was playing around with one of his spiked concoctions when he got the itch to throw a huge off-campus rager alongside his buddy, Rashad Carter.

The self-described “party guys,” who have the same last name but aren’t related, were known to throw together a number of social events as The Carter Administration. At one Administration get-together in the fall of 2008, his punch proved so popular with partygoers that 250 of them downed 15 gallons of the stuff, which he developed after the original base spirit (vodka) was nixed for a smoother option (rum). He didn’t know it at the time, but that recipe would eventually snowball into a bigger business opportunity.

After graduating in 2010, Jarred continued to experiment with his creation — whipping up a small batch here, hosting a shindig there — until 2015, when the St. Petersburg resident established The Red Lady Rum Punch as part of his company, The Decimalist LLC. The Decimalist has a couple of ventures under its multifaceted umbrella (Jarred hopes to bring on a clothing line as well), yet The Red Lady is his cornerstone.

A ready-to-drink blend of Caribbean rum and island fruits and berries, the rum punch has since been showcased at everything from comedy shows and poetry slams to the release of a local artist’s single and Miami Broward Carnival. While pineapple is the lone ingredient Jarred was willing to divulge to CL (hey, he can’t reveal the formula entirely), the founder did emphasize The Red Lady is made sans food coloring or dye.

“It is actually going to, over time, separate, so on the bottle it does say, ‘Shake well,’” Jarred said. “It’s kinda like OJ with pulp. If you see something like a Hpnotiq, it remains blue consistently throughout. Those are dyes.”

The Red Lady is also packaged in a cherry-red bottle — initially, the bottle was white — to help it stand out among all kinds of booze on back bars and liquor store shelves. More specifically, that will help it stand out — once it officially launches in Tampa Bay.

St. Petersburg Distillery produces and bottles the rum punch, as The Red Lady is one of its contract bottling clients, which is then distributed out of Miami. That’s why the St. Pete and Tampa area, plus the Magic City, will be the first two markets to score the refreshing, 40-proof drink. According to Jarred, the plan is to hit St. Pete stores on Feb. 28.

With a Florida focus in mind, distribution to cities like Orlando, St. Augustine and Tallahassee will follow in the future.

“Expansion was not something that I really, really thought about. Yeah, we want it to be big. But it really started off as a St. Pete thing — even though Indiana is where it was birthed. It was always just, like, I wanted it for us… [Jai Lai is] killin’ it, but it’s from Tampa. It is Tampa’s beer. That’s my vision for The Red Lady,” said Jarred.

“Drink with Elegance” is the tagline of The Red Lady, a name inspired by Jarred’s mother. When he was growing up, Mom used to mix a variety of punches at home, giving her recipes monikers that correlated with their hues. The Yellow Lady, for example, was her mix of lemonade, peach and a little bit of sangria. So, naturally, The Red Lady made sense for what transpired in her son’s college kitchen those many years ago.

He considered changing the name multiple times. However, the rum punch has maintained crowd-pleasing appeal with taste testers, as well as many bartenders who are drawn to the convenience factor of a shake-and-pour formula meant to save them time at high-volume establishments. After all, one could place the drink in the same family as bottled cocktails, a trend that continues to gain traction behind the bar.

As for the proper way to sip The Red Lady, the founder likes it chilled — straight up. The drink tastes great with club soda, too, and when mixed with Hennessy (to pull off the Red Devil cocktail) or Malibu Red (for a coconut-infused combo called Code Red).

“There’s a stigma when you’re drinkin’ that you gotta be sloppy. You don’t,” Jarred said. “You don’t have to be in a certain tie. You don’t have to be in a suit. You can be just like me and you… enjoying The Red Lady.” 

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