Entire books have been dedicated to the historically rich family of punches, leaving little new ground to cover, but what piqued our interest about Punch a la Romaine is the way it skirts the line between the kitchen and the bar, plus its ability to adapt. It’s a sophisticated slushy of sorts: essentially a combination of Champagne punch and lemon ice. Recipes span all levels of complexity and potency and range from the 15+ serving punch bowl variety in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 Bartender’s Guide, to dainty single-serving palate cleansers made for multi course meals. It was apparently so popular in the nineteenth century that William Terrington thought it necessary to include a whopping 9 variations in his 1869 Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks.
The complex way of making this punch involves folding airy meringue into a rum spiked citrus granita, topped with Champagne for extra decadence. For something more approachable, we're proposing an updated version adapted from Spritz, which captures the spirit of the drink in a form more familiar to the current cocktail world. At its best, this drink offers a rummy sweet confectionary feeling. The nose is full of Champagne bubbles with hints of rum; creamy egg white gives way to a light and fizzy sip full of citrus and wine; while on the finish the rum shines through. The combination of orange juice and simple syrup lend just the right level of sweetness to blend all the elements, resulting in a bright balance of citrus with subtle floral notes.
Many recipes call for darker rums, but Spritz calls for a light rum, which we thought was delicious. That said, there’s certainly plenty of room for experimenting here. For a bit more depth, the funky notes of a rhum agricole would be a fun option. To achieve an extra fancy pink tone, we used a blood orange. Spritz’s updated process includes the use of a shaken egg white in place of meringue in a single serving portion. For extra oomph from the egg whites, we first hand whip them until frothy, secondly dry shake, and finally shake again with ice to maximize their volume; it’s not quite Italian meringue, but you can achieve a pretty impressive fluff, especially once it’s given a Champagne boost. The original formula is fairly labor intensive, but if that sounds appealing, the recipes printed in David Wondrich’s Punch is a good place to look. He offers the “easy way” and the “hard way” to tackle it, though both are more complex than the recipe printed here. That said, if you are feeling spunky, Wondrich offers extensive notes on how to complete the process.