Nineteenth Century: Roman Punch

November  9, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Makes 6 to 8 drinks
Author Notes

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. This recipe comes from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, and appeared in the Times in 1879. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • em-i-lis
  • Sasha (Global Table Adventure)
    Sasha (Global Table Adventure)
  • brixton
  • Sagegreen
  • Amanda Hesser
    Amanda Hesser
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

17 Reviews

em-i-lis February 22, 2013
I now know how I'm kicking off Sunday night Oscar watching!
Audrey R. April 11, 2011
I love my NY Times Cookbook its like sleeping with your Bible, because there is always a passage like this one to lament over and use for worship. Thanks!
Amanda H. April 11, 2011
Thanks Audrey!
Sasha (. February 3, 2011
Isn't it funny how food is just like fashion - in one year and passé the next. Since I'm a lightweight, I'd skimp on the rum ... but the flavor combination sounds heavenly. Such a nice change of pace from the usual goodies.
brixton January 22, 2011
We made this cocktail at our monthly baking/brunch this morning - it was a little too overwhelmingly boozy, even with a meal, and the meringue, while tasty, didn't win me over. I wish we'd seen Amanda's note about making meringue with regular (vs. confectioners') sugar, as I believe my friend used the full ration of regular sugar, resulting in slightly grainy meringue. Oh well, a nice change of pace from the usual mimosas, though I don't think we'll be making it again.
johnaka January 9, 2011
I have made this twice now, and both were excellent. the bartender was confused the first time and added Regatta Ginger Beer instead of Champagne, but it tasted fine, albeit with less alcohol. The second time was just wonderful. Next time, I will try Wondrich's harder recipe that calls for it to be made in an ice cream maker and served as slush.
Sagegreen January 1, 2011
Love this drink. Thanks for the background information. Years ago I dated a Rutherford, who was actually named for and related to Rutherford B. Hayes. It is so good we are not living with temperance. Perhaps this drink will enjoy a robust revival.
Robert W. January 1, 2011

Henry Voigt's last two posted menus, one for a German New Year's Eve party in NYC in 1887 and one for the St. Nicolas Hotel Christmas Dinner in NYC in 1881, both have Roman Punch served as a refreshment after the roast. The menus are on his blog, which can be found with Google by searching for "The American Menu."
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
Just made this with limeade instead of lemonade (shopping mishap), and I'm happy to report it was really great! Also I made the meringue with regular sugar (1 egg white to 3/4 cup granulated sugar).
Daphne November 9, 2010
The punch bowl we served our punch from was also used by my great grandmother to carry my grandfather out of their home in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake!
monkeymom November 9, 2010
Daphne, you have to tell folks about your trip to the liquor store!
Daphne November 9, 2010
Went to Jackson's Liquors in Lafayette, CA and Don Beatty was a wealth of knowledge. We picked a 12 year old demerara rum called El Dorado. And to float the punch, a black strap rum called Cruzan from St. Croix since 1760. For the champagne we chose the first champagne to hit San Francisco Bay, literally! It was hidden in the bowels of the Niantic, a whaling vessel carrying gold seekers from Panama in the mid 19th Century. The champagne was discovered 20 years later, after the Niantic had been pulled ashore, subsequently abandoned and converted to a hotel. For the lemonade, we adapted Scott Peacock/ Edna Lewis' version from Southern Cooking; Meyer lemons, less sugar:)
Daphne November 9, 2010
Oh, and its called Champagne Jacquesson:)
Amanda H. November 28, 2010
Both are amazing stories!
johnaka January 9, 2011
I would love to see a photo of this bowl. And I take it your grandfather was an infant at the time?
Daphne January 23, 2011
johnaka, Our punch bowl is lovely, cut crystal and quite large. When I carried it to the table full of punch from my fridge ( in November) it was heavy, and I wondered then how my great grandmother could have carried her infant son out of the house in it. She was a very small framed woman too, but I guess adrenaline comes in handy in a situation like that.
P. S. sorry I can't fit a photo in for you here...
AntoniaJames November 9, 2010
We had this at a party over the weekend. Amazing! So delicious. And how interesting that it first appeared in the Times in 1879. ;o)