victorian holiday punches

Though most of my research last summer in London involved dirty books, I couldn’t help but notice a charming little column in the threepenny weekly newspaper Society.  Amid almost incomprehensible snippets joking about long lost references to British social butterflies, spicy lawsuits, perfidious massage parlours, correspondence about the discipline of schoolgirls, and ads for liver pills, I found some delightful holiday punch recipes from December 31, 1898.

The “newest things” of the late Victorian “convivial bowl” will amuse and delight your chums, encouraging one and all to think of the good olde days.  Make these at your own risk, American puritans — they aren’t foolin’ with the alcohol or raw eggs.  But what’s a Victorian party without a whiff of danger?

Hotpot seems like an excellent recipe for all you urban chicken keepers and home brewers.  Watch out for that nutmeg, though.  A Famous Christmas Punch makes my mouth water, but even *I* don’t have two spare bottles of soused raspberries and strawberries lying around.  I can’t imagine wasting the “best champagne” we recently tasted at Marché Provisions for Prince of Wales Punch, frankly. And as for the eggnogs, the White House eggnog is similar but less creamy than Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s famous egg nog , but the Kentucky eggnog, with its eggwhite float, will probably make its modern partakers dream less of paradise than salmonella.

But above all, just remember: “in the concoction of these ambrosial compounds strict attention must be paid to the prescribed proportions.” This seems particularly bad advice to me, especially when malnourished children are toasting with the Hotpot, but who am I to be a Scrooge?

Reprinted below are the recipes exactly as they appear in the clipping, for your cutting and pasting pleasure.

Navy Punch

Take one quart Jamaica rum, one quart American champagne, the juice of eight lemons, the rinds of four, one and one-half pounds sugar, one quart hot tea, made from eight teaspoonfuls of tea.  Upon the lemon rinds and sugar pour the tea and allow the mixture to stand half an hour, stirring it often.  Then add the lemon juice and rum.  Place in the punch bowl, and when iced and ready to serve add the champagne.


Take one quart of old ale (not lager beer), five well-beaten, new laid eggs; one small teaspoonful of ground ginger, one-fourth of a nutmeg, grated, one-fourth of a pound of sugar, half a pint of Old Tom gin.  First, put the ale in a saucepan and heat until hot, but do not let boil; second, beat together the eggs, sugar, and spices; third, pour the hot ale into the mixture, stirring all the time; fourth, add the gin; fifth, put the concoction on the fire again, in the saucepan, heat until hot (be sure not to let it boil), and serve hot, in tumblers.

A Famous Christmas Punch

Take one bottle of raspberries and one bottle of strawberries, each in liqueur, one bottle of cherries, brandied, six bottles of Saint Julien claret, three bottles of good rum, three dozen oranges, one dozen lemons, one pound of sugar, four quart syphons of seltzer.  Cut two oranges and one lemon into small slices or cubes and extract the juice of the remainder.  These slices are to float in the bowl with the cherries, strawberries, and raspberries.  The liqueur (Maraschino or Curaçao) and brandy of the berries and cherries give tone to and help sweeten the beverage.

Prince of Wales Punch

Take one bottle best champagne, one bottle Burgundy, one bottle San Cruz rum, ten lemons, two oranges, a pound and a half of sugar.  Squeeze the oranges and lemons into the bowl, add the sugar and let the mixture stand thirty-six hours, stirring often.  Then pour in the liquor and let the whole mixture stand twenty-four hours.  Ice and serve in the usual way.

White House Eggnog

Take eight eggs, two quarts of milk, eight tablespoonfuls of sugar, eight wine glasses of brandy, and three wine glasses of rum.  Mix as follows: Beat the yolks of the eggs and the sugar together, and then pour in slowly the liquor.  To this add one-third of the beaten whites of the eggs, next add the milk, and then the remainder of the beaten whites.

A “Half-Dozen” Punch

For a small party the number above mentioned here is a delicious punch: —

Take one pint of claret, one glass of rum, one whisky glass of whisky, one petit verre Benedictine, three lemons, one pint of seltzer (possibly a quart), half a cup of sugar, a few brandied cherries, or a brandied peach, coarsely chopped.  Serve ice cold.

With the rum and whisky omitted this is a very nice light punch.  Lettuce sandwiches are suitable to serve with it.

Kentucky Eggnog

Here is an eggnog that will make its partakers dream of paradise.  Ingredients: Two dozen eggs, two quarts of rich milk, one quart of brandy, half a pint of Jamaica rum, a pound and a half of sugar.  Mix as follows: Separate the yolks of the eggs from the whites, add one pound of sugar to the whites, and beat until stiff enough to float.  Add balance of sugar to the yolks and beat thoroughly.  Into a large bowl throw the Jamaica rum, the brandy and the milk, and stir in the beaten yolks, float the beaten whites on top, and serve with a little nutmeg grated over each glass, or not, as preferred.  Will serve twenty people.


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