Friday, June 11, 2010

Punch Romaine on the Titanic

"Orders had been issued Sunday to make the dinner the finest ever served on a ship, regardless of expense, and the orders were carried out. I believe it was soon after 6:30 when the passengers strolled in. Mr. Ismay sat alone at a table a few feet away from that of Mr. and Mrs. Astor. He was in a corner. The Astor table was to the right and the captain's table was in the center. At Mr. Astor's table Dr. O'Loughlin, the ship's surgeon, was seated … At one time Dr. O'Loughlin stood up, and, raising a glass of champagne, cried, "Let us drink to the mighty Titanic.” So reported Thomas Whitely, asst. steward, Sunday, April 21 1912 from his hospital bed in NYC according to the Encyclopedia Titanica

Sends chills, doesn’t it? They ate like locusts (that consume their own weight daily) on the Titanic if the provisions list is any indicator. David Smith says the quantity of provisions on the Titanic were, well, Titanic! There were 75,000 pounds of fresh meat and 11,000 pounds of fish and 40 tons of potatoes. There was a ton of coffee, and enough flour for 60,000 loaves of bread! How about 16,000 lemons, 35,000 fresh eggs and 10,000 pounds of sugar (although with only 1500 bottles of wine… I think they were short in that department!)? All of this for only 3500 passengers and crew for a 5 day trip!

Did you ever wonder what they ate that last night (completely unaware of a really big iceberg looming ahead with an ocean liner on its dance card and 2 left feet?)? A great book Last Dinner On the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner, by Rich Archbold gives some wonderful details of the ship and menus.

Although I’ve discovered that dishes from the 19th century are often like another language that needs translation, the 1912 Titanic menu with its 10 courses is pretty recognizable to anyone with a passing knowledge of classic cuisine (I write more about that HERE).

The one thing that caught my eye was Punch Romaine. The wonderful blogger, Hobson’s Choice had mentioned this punch a few months ago and piqued my interest. I was curious that it sat in the middle of the menu as the 6th course. It seems no less than Escoffier worked with this class of punches as alcoholic palate cleansers with citrus, rum and champagne topped with a meringue froth. They are amazingly good and so refreshing. I can see that you might want to have something like this after salmon mousse, Filet Mignon, Lamb, Duck, and Sirloin of beef. You might want a break before the Squab and Pate de Foie Gras!!

There are a million recipes for it. Hobson’s Choice gave a few sources starting with the legendary THE BARTENDER'S GUIDE by Jerry Thomas published in 1862.

I found a wonderful book by William Terrington called Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks
from 1869.

There I hit the Comstock Lode of “Ponche a la Romaine”. So many versions! I got some insight into things like lemon water ice thanks to my old friend Charles Ranhofer’s Epicurean (but had to work to find what the h-ll a syrup gage was—as it turns out, a saccharometer) and made some changes including a larger sparkling wine to lemon water ice ratio (big surprise!), taking my cue from Hobson’s Choice and Jerry Thomas and noting that quite a few recipes said that it was to be drinkable and not spoonable. I thought that the ginger addition was genius and happened to have some of Aftelier’s Ginger essential oil which is absolutely brilliant stuff. I decided to go with the Italian meringue that many recipes used only because it is more stable and being cooked, safer on a hot day than meringue. I also decided to do single servings so things stayed fresh and the meringue didn’t break down in the punch and the drink kept its layers. As for the sparkling wine, I discovered this fabulous wine called Donati Malvasia (that I got from the charming Appellation in NYC after tasting it at Gramercy Tavern). It is dry and made from the ancient malvasia grape used in Madeira. It can stand up to the sweetness of the lemon water ice and meringue. I give you the authentic 1869 recipe below if you want to make it old school—more a melty sorbet than a boozy cocktail.

My friends at 12 Bottle Bar have given a great history of this drink and an alternate recipe.... stop on by to see what they have done.

My recipe based on Brunning’s version of the drink in Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks
You can make this in 15 minutes if you buy lemon sorbet!

Punch a la Romaine (enough to use 2 bottles of champagne easily for 12- 16)

1 recipe for lemon water ice (or, if you are in a hurry, buy a good lemon sorbet and add the rum and ginger to it)
1 recipe for meringue (Italian or plain)
2 bottles Sparkling wine (I recommend Donati Malvasia 2008—otherwise a very dry sparkling wine)

Lemon Water Ice

2 1/2 c sugar (organic is best)
2 cups water
juice of 6 lemons (at least ½ c)
peel of 2 lemons.
¼ to 1/3 c dark rum (or to taste)

6 drops Aftelier ginger essential oil (if you must, you could use a quarter-sized piece of ginger grated with the lemon peel and then strain it out but it wouldn’t be as good)
Make a simple syrup… heat the sugar and water and add lemon and peel (and ginger if you are doing it that way). Let cool for 2 hours, strain and add ginger essential oil and freeze. Add the rum and stir just before serving.

Charles Ranhofer’s The Epicurean, 1894

Italian Meringue
3 egg whites, beaten
2/3 + ¼ c sugar
¼ c water
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Bring sugar and water slowly to the boil… stop cooking when it reaches 237º
Beat the egg whites to firm with cream of tartar added at the end. Add this syrup slowly with the mixer running and then beat a few minutes longer till cooled, refrigerate till cold.
Just before serving, add some of the sparkling wine, lemon ice mixture (at a proportion of 1 lemon ice/wine (that is 1 lemon-6 wine) to 3 meringue—enough to give it the texture of soft whipped cream. I would say 3 T meringue is enough per glass


Uncooked Meringue
4 egg whites
½c + 2 T sifted powdered sugar
¼ t. cream of tartar
Whip the whites and add the sifted sugar slowly until a good stiff meringue is formed. Add a little of the wine mixture to flavor it but it will not take as much… less than 1-4.

To Make the Drink

Add a 1 Tb of the lemon ice in the bottom of the glass. Pour sparkling wine over it (around 1/3 c), then top with a dollop of meringue. This way there are 3 layers of flavor.
OR, mix it all together in a punch bowl and serve!

Just for the heck of it… here is some of the first class china on the Titanic, lovely, isn’t it? The glass and plate that I used are of the same vintage, around 1910.

Photos from Marconiograph

Thanks for hosting Foodie Friday Gollum!

And thanks to everyone for doing the Google ad click... less than a month to go!

Come see my article on blog critics about blogging and a great chocolate cake!!!


Diane said...

Lovely post with lots of interesting bits I never knew. I agree the titanic was very definately short on wine for a 5 day cruise. Maybe the wine merchants knew something that the crew didn't!! Diane

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

My mother-in-law used to make punch whenever she had a party. This sounds like a delicious recipe - so elegant. What an interesting post, too! The quantities of meat and fish that were on board are incredible! Perhaps instead of wine they drank more mixed cocktails at that time..and punch!

Erica (Irene) said...

I just found your Blog and I'm now following it......can't wait to read your other threads.
Thanks for sharing...... have a great weekend!

The French Bear said...

What, a fountain of information...and somehow you make it sound so romantic, he he, I just love reading your post.
Margaret B

Deana Sidney said...

FoodFun>I never thought of it that way... it's just that everything else was so excessive... 1500 for 5 days... not really a lot!
Savoring> I do think punch deserves a renaissance... especially in summer. As for the bottles... maybe only first class drank a lot... there were at least 5 different wines at dinner for the 416 in first class. Although I did read that glasses were never more than 2/3 full to make them less prone to spillage.
Erica>Thanks for stopping by, I do hope you enjoy them!
TheFrench Bear> what is more romantic than a doomed cruise? Glad you enjoyed it!

Stella said...

Hey Deana, I always wonder about the moments before anything like the Titanic disaster. The moments where everyone is just going about their business and lives not knowing what is coming....very unsettling.
On a pleasant note, this lemon drink sounds so wonderful. And you've again caught that beautiful, romantic light in your photo of the drink. Very enchanting...

Deana Sidney said...

Stella> I was particularly pleased with these. I worked really hard to make the B&W photos look 100 years old... I looked at 19th c photos to get some ideas and then went for it. One of these days I am going to do some cyanotypes and albumen prints with a pin hole camera... I am just crazy about really ancient photos from the 1840's. They are really like impressionist art... think Fox-Talbot.

Unknown said...

What an interesting post. The china is gorgeous!


Barbara said...

I'd never heard of a saccharometer... but I guess it shouldn't be a surprise there is such a thing. It reminded me of a refractometer which I think it used with grapes, isn't it? Detects solids or something. You'd know, but I'd have to look it up!

I've always been fascinated with the food aboard the Titanic. What fun to have found the book Last Dinner on the Titanic. I'd love to read it. You always discover the most fascinating books!
The china is divine.

And yes, after looking at the ingredients, The Punch Romaine might just have been used as a palate cleanser. The photos make it look like a heavenly cloud of something delicious. What could possibly be wrong with lemon, meringue and champagne? I'm licking my lips already!

pam said...

Your posts are so interesting and informative and, of course, beautiful to look at!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Interesting post, love reading about the information on The Titanic - not to mention the lovely china which is my weakness...

LaDivaCucina said...

Hello you fabulous creature! I've been lurking about the past few posts, so super stupidly busy and sick at once, I have been drooling, esp. over the chocolate cream pie! Fabulous job darling!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Absolutely stunning china! I enjoyed the lesson in history.


Faith said...

I had no idea there was so much food on the Titanic! Very interesting information. Your pictures are stunning! This sounds like a very refreshing punch.

Deana Sidney said...

Gail> Thanks for stopping by. there is a great ghostly photo of the china on the ocean floor... this must have been left behind... it is lovely!
Barbara> It is very cloudlike... well put. I think this is a brilliant combo. I made it for friends over Memorial Day and it was a huge hit... we had it between dinner and dessert. As for the book.. click and buy... it is really fun... Dr. Lostpast thinks it's macabre to be curious about life aboard the dead ship, doesn't understand the fuss. I think it is the last gasp of an age. After WWI it would all be gone. 2500 crew for 1000 passengers??? That is another world.
Pam>Thanks so much. This was fun to do and I learned some cool things.
Shirley>Thanks for stopping by...old china is my weakness too!
Divina>That was quite a compliment... I am thrilled! So pleased you enjoyed it!
Butteryum>It is pretty, isn't it.. I think they are redoing it!
Faith>SOOO much food, crazy, right? Glad you liked my antique pics!

Mags @ the Other Side of 50 said...

Am I wrong to think that this recipe would be a modern day Orange Julius with alcohol?

You continue to amaze and enlighten me with your bits of history. Reading about the Titanic usually brings me nightmares, but I'll try to focus on the food this time....LOL

Great post!

Sarah said...

I have that book, Deana! Years ago I hosted my dinner club and we made 5 courses from the last dinner on the Titanic. It was painstaking. But fun. We didn't make this drink and it sounds yummy.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing drink! I love the meringue on top!

Mary Bergfeld said...

I really love to visit here. I always learn something new and I am fascinated by the ease with which you write and make history interesting. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Tasty Trix said...

That is definitely an Escoffier-like number of steps for a dish! I would really really love to peruse your book collection someday. I can't imagine a better title than "Cooling Cups." How cool that you did this - I LOVE this post!!!

Gemma said...

It's a exquisite punch. The combination of lemon ice, sparkling wine and meringue seems to me to be delicious.
It is perfect for a sweet, sweet end...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Again Deana, this is why I LOVE your site! You know I'm one of those people that did wonder what their last meal was! :P Your version looks absolutely last meal worthy! :D

Deana Sidney said...

Hey guys, I forgot to put the menu on!!! OOOPS!!

Deana Sidney said...

Mags> sort of, yes! a lemon julius! And yes... they were having a really good time until Sunday night!
Allourfingers> It is a cool book, isn't it? It sort of gives instructions on doing a Titanic party which is neat. I can't imagine the work involved in doing it.. I hope everyone did a dish!
5 star> the meringue is very sexy!
Mary> so glad you enjoy my mini history lessons!
Trix> i just had to add a note.. if you buy sorbet it's a breeze! The drink books are too much fun... go ahead... buy one! The formula was sooo similar for about 1/2 the drinks with lemon, champagne and rum or cognac... interesting.
Gemma> I'm glad you like it... I can imagine drinking this on a hot day in Barcelona!
Lorraine> I did too! Isn't it funny what foodies think about... it was a disaster after all. On the other hand, it's better to concentrate on the positive. They were having a great time!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh dearest, what a fabulous way to tie together cuisine and history....You have really found a magnificent way to whet our appetites and our curiosity! Have you ever gone as far back as Roman times and what they ate? That would be really interesting!!! Thank you for coming to my post; it really means a lot to me when people articulate their understanding of what I am trying to communicate! MERCI MILLE FOIS! Anita

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating post.

tasteofbeirut said...

The tragedy of the titanic always fascinated me; you are bringing it back to life with the interesting facts that I ignored about their food pantry and menu and the china they used; unbelievable!
Love that cocktail too! sounds so ethereal.

pierre said...

congratulations that must be terrific!! PIerre

Deana Sidney said...

Castles&crowns>History is more interesting with food! And yes, I have Apicius' cookbook and look forward to sharing it with you all soon. The recipes are delicious... a little odd sometimes, but delicious!
Des>thanks Des, you know from interesting.. people should stop by your blog and check it out.
taste of beirut>ethereal is a good word for the drink... light lemony air!
pierre> yup... it is nummy good!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog visit. I love your blog's unique blend of history and food. I cannot wait to come back!

Becky said...

I love uncooked meringue ... sounds like heaven in a drink!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This reminds me a bit of syllabub which uses lemons, sherry and cream - once you mix it and let it sit in the refrigerator for a while, it develops that frothy layer on top. I'd love to try your recipe. Amazed at the volume of food they brought along. Some airplanes don't even serve food now ...

Hayley said...

Lovely drink and lovely post..thanks for lovely comment on my blog too..glad your dog likes my or she must had an Indian heart...:-)))

Lazaro Cooks said...

Another very interesting and well-written post.


Fresh Local and Best said...

I cannot believe the amount of food they had on the ship! Incredible that they were able to keep it in good condition and serve it. The ingredients!!! Squab, filet mignon, absolutely luxurious!

Plutonia said...

This looks truly amazing. I agree completely that the food to wine ratio was ridiculous! No one needs that many potatoes on one ship, I'd think but one always needs a fine wine!

Sue said...

What a fascinating post! Thank you! I will try this at our next dinner party.

El said...

Fascinating post. THanks so much for researching this and sharing with the rest of us. Beautiful post!

Deana Sidney said...

hungryscholar>welcome anytime!
Becky>i think you will love it!
TW> after researching syllabub... it is much like it and a cousin, I would say... very refreshing.
Jagruti>My St.Bernard is an old soul... perhaps she spent some time in India! PS I love indian classical music!
Lazar> Thanks... it was a fun one to do!
Fresh>Me too! Could it be they laid in stores for the trip back too???
Plutonia> thanks for the visit... yeah... lots of potatoes... maybe that was what the crew ate!
Sue> that mavasia was really the key... made some with proseco and it was good.. just not as good!
El> thanks for stopping....most welcome!

sweetlife said...

great post, so much interesting facts, so much food oh my, I never knew..and seeing the menus how wonderful, I really enjoyed your post and the remake is just divine, great post again..


Unknown said...

What a spectacular post. Its a beautiful drink, but it also makes me feel slightly sad, because of the tragedy associated with it. It is kind of shocking to see that picture of the plates on the bottom of the sea bed.
*kisses* HH

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hi Deanna! Thank you for coming to bid me bon voyage! You are sooo kind to do so; I am very excited to go see loved ones in San Francisco and then down to L.A. where I was born. Ah......I am loving the idea of getting on a plane early tomorrow morning! HAVE A GREAT WEEK and I will be back in 10 days! Anita

Joanne said...

What a cool post! No one was going hungry on that ship, that's for sure!

I can't believe how many components that punch romaine has...sounds delicious!

Needful Things said...

*loved* your black and white photos. they really do look 100 yrs old!
and really enjoyed this read!

party dresses said...

Hello I am so delighted I found your site, I really found you by mistake, while I was watching on yahoo for

something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round

entertaining blog. Please do keep up the great work.

Unknown said...

led tap: The New Technology The need for shower heads has sprung up with rising water shortage problems. bathroom accessories technology has evolved as many companies have understood the importance of water conservation. Companies have introduced significant changes to their showerhead technology to use less water, while giving the same water levels and quality. kitchen tap that feature the push-on mixer are best for old bathrooms, as they do not require any plumbing behind the bath tap.

Unknown said...

We pneumatic products manufacture several products, including solenoid valves,air control valves, piston air cylinder, Pneumatic Air Filter and some pneumatic accessories. Most of goods are exported to USA, Europe and Asia. And they are widely used on electronic, pharmaceutical, food processing, packaging, medical and automotive industries. Visit:

Unknown said...

Erstklassige Qualität, tolle Designs, riesige Auswahl: entdecken Sie die Vielfalt der BLANCO Küchenarmaturen.