Nineteenth Century: Roman Punch

November  9, 2010
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

  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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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.