Party like it’s 27 BCE!
If you type “Roman Punch” into your search engine, you are unlikely to encounter the recipe presented here. Most will be a frozen concoction made with Champagne, orange juice, rum, and a myriad of other ingredients you would expect to find in a typical punch bowl. Apparently they are all inspired by something whipped up at the White House during Rutherford Hayes’s tenure. Something about hiding the booze from the temperance-minded folks at the party, including Mrs. Hayes, or some such tommyrot. Others link the drink with Punch a la Romaine which was, apparently, a Papal libation. President Hayes and the Pope aside, our version is from Jerry Thomas, who published the first known bartenders guide in 1862, and included the following recipe.
(Use a large bar-glass)
Take 1 tablespoon of powdered white sugar [superfine sugar], dissolved in a little water.
1 table-spoonful of raspberry syrup
1 teas-spoonful of Curacao
1 wine-glass [2 oz] of Jamaica rum
1/2 wine-glass [1 oz] of brandy
The juice of half a lemon
Dash Port wine
Fill with shaved ice, shake well, dash with Port wine and ornament with fruits in season. Serve with a straw.
Your average half-lemon will yield about 3/4 ounces, so I would adjust the sugar (I suggest using simple syrup) and raspberry syrup to about 1/2 oz each unless you like your drinks very sweet. To avoid watering down the drink too much, shake the first six ingredients as you normally would any other cocktail, then strain into a glass filled with cracked ice and add the goodly dash of port over the top.
By the 1890s, orange juice was being introduced to the drink, in some cases eclipsing the lemon completely, and one saw an astronomical rise in the amount of raspberry syrup—as if Thomas’s drink wasn’t sweet enough.
The most inventive interpretation of Roman Punch comes from the 1892 FlowingBowl by The Only William (William Schmidt). His concoction contains both lemon (or lime—your choice, apparently) and orange juice; sugar, Maraschino, and curacao as sweeteners; brandy, and a mere dash of rum. His garnish is fit for an emperor: pineapple and orange slices around the rim of the goblet, a sprinkling of fresh berries and a dollop of ice cream in the center! Sadly, no port wine is mentioned.