My recipe for a perfect New Year's Eve:
1.) Real friends
2.) Fake Champagne
3.) Hot music
4.) Cold egg whites
What made the night so great this year was that we did something that would make ANY night awesome: a group of my bestests went to a Rebirth Brass Band concert near Times Square (thankfully, the concert was after midnight & most of the tourists were stumbling home).
Rebirth has been there through a number of my own personal rebirths: I've been a foolhardy & ambitious college student and a dreamy, directionless postgrad; I've drifted around post-Katrina New Orleans to their music; I've been rowdy and hungry, new to New York and itchin' to find my place. I've seen them twice at the vast and soulless BB King Blues Club, countless times at the Maple Leaf, and a few places in between. I have NEVER danced like I have at a Rebirth concert. If my mate, whoever he is, is reading this: I don't care what it costs, they're playing at our wedding, honey.
And while we're on the subject, I think I'll serve a special fizzy cocktail; something sparkling and frothy (to compliment my dress and mood) with a kicky bite that gets everyone on the dance floor for "Do Whatcha Wanna."
Something along the lines of Roman Punch, though of course we'd have to rename it in honor of, say, the place where first we shared true love's kiss (can you tell I saw Enchanted over the holidays?).
Roman Punch was a tipple that society gals & guys served after festive dinners of the late 19th century. My recipe came from no less a formidable source than The White House Cookbook (1887) by Mrs. Fanny Lemira Gillette & Hugo Ziemann. Fanny was a savvy self-promoter from Wisconsin who achieved cookbook fame late in life, and Hugo was, according to his publishers, once a caterer for an exiled son of Emperor Napoleon. (Perhaps together an early blueprint for countless duos of fabulous straight girls and their equally fabulous gay boyfriends?).
The White House Cookbook is a popular title that's been revised and updated through the years. The most recent one, published in 1996, prefaces with this warning:
"The original recipes and remedies contain ingredients which may not necessarily be healthful for some of today's lifestyles."Ain't that just so like our dull times?
Fanny and Hugo offer two versions of Roman Punch.
No. 1 has:
* An elixir of sugar, lemon and orange zest, and lemon and orange juice
* A bottle of champagne
* Egg whites "beaten to a stiff froth"
No. 2 has:
* Tart homemade lemonade, frozen into an icy slush
* Half a pint of brandy
* Half a pint of Jamaican rum
Because I love cocktails with egg whites (remember those gin fizzes?) and because only champagne (or, uh, cava) will do on NYE, I made No. 1. I halved the sugar, doubled the cava and spiked it with a half pint of brandy for good measure. The directions suggest that you serve over snow -- how charming would that be? -- but there was none to be had so I smashed up ice as best I could.
Recently I read an article in Vanity Fair in which a lot of aging muckety-mucks complained that Washington D.C. just isn't fun anymore. The Bushes have held 5 state dinners in 7 years, when the Kennedys would have had that many in about 2 months. Wouldn't it be nice if George was getting sloshed on Roman Punch every day instead of running the country into the ground?
But that's enough of the pessimism! It's 2008, set to be a heckuva year. In 11 months we get to finally pick a new president, reason enough to break out the bubbly and make some Roman Punch. Cheers!
Roman Punch 2008
1 1/2 cup sugar
Whites of 12 eggs
About 2 cups of crushed ice
2 bottles of champagne or champagne substitute
about 1 cup of brandy (or rum), to taste
- Zest the lemons and oranges. Combine the zest with the sugar and set aside. Juice the lemons and oranges. Add juice to sugar mixture and reserve.
- Just before serving, beat the egg whites to a stiff froth. Put the ice in a large punch bowl and add the juice. Fold in the egg whites. Pour in the champagne and rum. Serve immediately.