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Nineteenth Century: Roman Punch

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Roman Punch

- Amanda

Each week, over the next few weeks, I'll feature recipes from different eras that appear in The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

There was a time -- when turtle soup was a luxury dish and whiskey was an acceptable morning pick-me-up -- when garnishing an icy-cold drink with dollop of meringue seemed perfectly normal. And why not? The meringue floats on the surface like a regal, mysterious iceberg. As you mix it in, the sugar and whites add a touch of cream to what's otherwise a traditional sweet, boozy punch.

Although this one does not, many Roman punch recipes instruct you to freeze the mixture before serving, presumably so it gets nice and slushy before receiving its meringue cap.

Roman punch was served as an intermezzo at society parties and at the White House during Rutherford B. Hayes's presidency. Hayes and his wife, who was known as "Lemonade Lucy," were temperance advocates, and to get around their strictures -- the rumor was -- someone in the kitchen devised the spiked sorbet, which was served to guests. By 1922, the drink was declared passé by Emily Post.

Roman Punch

This recipe appeared in The New York Times in 1879.

Makes 6 to 8 drinks

  • 2 cups lemonade
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • 8 ounces Champagne
  • 8 ounces rum
  • 2 large egg whites
  • A few drops lemon juice
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar


1. Stir together the lemonade, orange juice, Champagne, and rum in a punch bowl. Chill.

2. When ready to serve, make the meringue: whip the egg whites and lemon juice in a medium bowl until they hold soft peaks, then gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar. Pile into a serving bowl.

3. Fill punch cups with ice, ladle over the punch, and top each with a dollop of meringue. Serve with cocktail stirrers.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook The Essential New York Times Cookbook

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