Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Potent 19th Century Potable: Regent's Punch

Regent's Punch

About the Recipe
What is great about this recipe is that it proves beyond a doubt that Americans in the south were drinking a version of iced tea as early as 1847! Usually, iced or "sweet" tea is credited with being invented at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. However, documentary evidence shows that it was in place long before that. For example:
  • A recipe for iced tea was found in a cookbook called, Housekeeping in Old Virginia in 1879. 
  • A published recipe for iced tea appeared in the August 8, 1868 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.
  • This recipe for Regent's Punch predates both of these as it was published in 1847. While it is an alcoholic version of iced tea, it does show that people were not adverse to drinking chilled tea.

The Recipe: Regent's Punch
Source: Sarah Rutledge, The Carolina Housewife, 1847

Modern Recipe Adaptation


  • 4 Tbsp Green Tea Leaves, Loose (or you can use 8 tea bags)
  • 2 Quarts Water
  • 1 Cup Red Currant Jelly
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of 4 Lemons
  • 1/2 Cup Brandy
  • 1 Lemon, Sliced in Rings
  • Half of a 750 ml bottle of Champagne or Sparkling Wine (or more, if you like!)

  1. Brew Your Tea:  Heat the two quarts of water to boil. Remove the water from the heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl or 2-quart size measuring cup. Allow to cool to just about 180-190ยบ F. Then add the tea leaves to the hot water and allow to brew for about 2 minutes. Strain the tea leaves out of the brewed tea into another heat-safe bowl. Add the currant jelly and the sugar to the hot tea and allow them both to melt/dissolve into the hot tea. Stir. Set aside to cool and when cool place in the refrigerator for several hours.
  2. Assemble the Punch: Pour the sweetened and cooled tea mixture into a punch bowl. Add the lemon juice and the brandy. Mix together. You can add the Champagne at this point, if serving immediately. If not, place the punch back in the refrigerator to keep cold and add the Champagne just before service.
  3. Ice: You can also add ice to the punch at the time of service, but it is not part of the original recipe. I froze water with some raspberries in a pretty gelatin mold and used that as my ice. You could also freeze some of the green tea/red currant mixture in this way to keep from diluting the punch with plain ice.
  4. Finish the Punch: Top the punch with the lemon rings. 


  1. Do you know what is meant by 'old spirits', referred to in the original recipe?

    1. I think it meant any old fortified wines such as Madeira or Marsala that you wanted to use up.

  2. Also, when cold tea is called for in the older recipes, it always seems to be cold green tea, rather than black tea (as far as I've seen), and almost always, the tea is being used as an ingredient in some other beverage, rather than being consumed on its own, as we drink iced tea today. That may be the real innovation from the 1906 World's Fair -- iced (not simply cold/leftover) black tea, as a beverage in its own right, rather than as an ingredient in another recipe. My costume guild had a fancy costumed dinner at one of the old hotels in San Francisco a few years ago, and the chef at the hotel re-created several historic recipes, including one for Regent's Punch, which everyone said was really delicious. I didn't go, because I couldn't afford the ticket price, but I may have to get some currant jelly and try this recipe!

    1. My guess is that they were trying to find ways to use leftover tea. I hope you can try this recipe soon; I think you'll really like it.


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