Punch á la Romaine: A Nearly Forgotten Drink

Frozen treats are a staple in New Orleans in order to beat the heat and humidity. Snowball stands, ice cream parlors, and daiquiri shops provide locals and tourists alike with snacks to beat the heat. One frozen treat that has been forgotten over the last century is Punch á la Romaine, also known as Punch Romaine. This alcoholic frozen beverage was popular all across the United States and abroad, even being served on the famous ship the Titanic, but was especially mainstay in New Orleans. The history of the drink is very interesting from the drinks origins, the evolution and variations of the recipe, and where and how the drink was served.

Punch Romaine has many different recipes and ways of making it. The constant ingredients found in all of the found recipes were lemon sorbet, champagne, and rum. The drink is always served partially frozen, almost like a slushy. Some versions of the recipe have Italian meringue, whipped egg whites and sugar, placed on top of the drink before served. Other versions include other liquors including Maraschino and Cognac to go along with the rum and champagne. Some recipes also make a sorbet using both lemon and orange juice, making the sorbet sweeter and less tart.

Quirinal palace
Quirinal Palace; Summer home for the Pope from 1583 to 1870

This drink has so many variations because of its long history that originates from the Papal palace in Rome, hence the name Punch Romaine. The drink was served to popes during the summer and became a favorite beverage for successive popes. The recipe for the drink was kept highly secret in the Papacy until Napoleon conquered Italy in 1796 and a Papal confectioner recreated the drink in France and later would introduce it to England and Russia also. The drink would reach peak popularity in the United States from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century and would appear in many cookbooks and be a feature on many restaurant menus.

galatoire's
Galatoire’s is one of New Orleans’ most popular restaurants that has been open sincee 1905

New Orleans citizens adopted Punch Romaine as the drink became popular in the United States. The beverage became a summer time favorite in New Orleans as both a frozen treat and an alcoholic beverage. Ice cream parlors in New Orleans in the mid 19th century would advertise in the Times Picayune that they sold Punch Romaine as the drink became commonly served. Punch Romaine was also made at restaurants and receptions. According to a Galatoire’s menu for a reception in 1906, the punch was served between two entrees; meaning that the sweet and tart beverage would have been used as a palate cleanser at upscale dinners and receptions. The fact that the punch was served at a variety of places shows how versatile the drink was.

homemade roman punch
Homemade Punch á la Romaine made from lemon sorbet, rum, and champagne.

While doing research on Punch Romaine, I decided to try to make the drink in order to see what the process of making the drink is like and how it tasted. The recipe I used was from the Times Picayune’s Creole Cookbook. The recipe I used was one of the simpler recipes for the punch, so this probably would have been similar to what was served at ice cream parlors in the 19th century. What I found out by making the drink was that it was relatively easy to make. The only ingredients needed were lemon sorbet, rum, and champagne. Though I did make my own sorbet, the process was still very easy and basically only required mixing the ingredients together in a bowl then serving. This recipe is very good for serving a lot of people so it must have been good for ice cream parlors and receptions. The drink had the consistency of a daiquiri and was very sweet and a little bit tart. This drink is quintessentially New Orleans because it is sweet, frozen, alcoholic, and delicious.

Punch Romaine is a drink that has largely been forgotten, especially in New Orleans. What was once a popular frozen treat has been phased out by daiquiris and snowballs. The history and varying recipes of Punch Romaine give a glimpse as to what people used to drink back then as opposed to what drinks we have now. I could see the drink regain popularity as the drink is a fine