There is no doubt that Larz and Isabel Anderson loved to serve their guests cocktails. Larz’s journals are replete with references to all sorts of concoctions he enjoyed serving guests, and many of these scenes are described in the couple’s new biography, Larz and Isabel Anderson: Wealth and Celebrity in the Gilded Age, the first-ever full-length account of the lives of these extraordinary Gilded Age celebrities.
Larz owned a copy of The Flowing Bowl: When and What to Drink, a three-hundred-page volume with recipes for hundreds of cocktails that lead to what the author William Schmidt called “many a happy hour.” Isabel liked to serve her guests milk punch, as she wrote in her diary for 1909,when she entertained “in Southern fashion” on New Year’s Day. We don’t know exactly which recipe she used, but Schmidt’s recipe gives us an idea of what the drink was like during the Gilded Age:
Warm Milk Punch, from William Schmidt's The Flowing Bowl (1892). A quart of fresh milk is slowly heated to the boiling with the thin peel of a small lemon; then strain the milk, beat it with the yolks of four eggs, stirred up beforehand in cold milk; add a wineglassful of brandy, and two wineglassfuls of rum; beat all over a slow fire to foam, and fill into glasses.
Ben Franklin had an even more difficult recipe in 1763, calling for 44 lemons!
To make Milk Punch Take 6 quarts of Brandy, and the Rinds of 44 Lemons pared very thin; Steep the Rinds in the Brandy 24 hours; then strain it off. Put to it 4 Quarts of Water, 4 large Nutmegs grated, 2 quarts of Lemon Juice, 2 pound of double refined Sugar. When the Sugar is dissolv'd, boil 3 Quarts of Milk and put to the rest hot as you take it off the Fire, and stir it about. Let it stand two Hours; then run it thro' a Jelly-bag till it is clear; then bottle it off. --
Modern hosts will probably not want to take the trouble of concocting either recipe for their guests, but it certainly would be an interesting experiment. Cheers and Happy New Year to all!
1912 New Year Greeting Card
Ben Franklin’s 1763 Milk Punch Recipe
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society