Origin of a Dish: The Jell-O Shot

“Punch Jelly,” from 1862.

My friend (and medieval textiles expert) Miranda brought this “cocktail” to my attention, by chattily asking me if I had ever tried the original Jell-O shot from Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book How To Mix Drinks.  The answer was no, but I was astounded and delighted by the idea.

There are records of gelatinous wines and champagnes being concocted as early as 1800, but Thomas’ recipe for “Punch Jelly” is made with spirits.  Essentially, it’s a basic rum punch (which includes cognac and lemonade) with a gelling agent added: historically, this would have been calves’ foot jelly or isinglass.  The former would have a hint of meaty flavor, while the latter, extracted from the swim-bladders of sturgeons, tasted remarkably of the sea.  I had neither lying around my kitchen the night I decided to make Punch Jelly; I used flavorless Knox gelatine instead.

I’ve made this recipe two ways: by following Miranda’s proportions for the intricate lemonade that Thomas describes in his recipe; and by simply replacing this lemonade with Newman’s Own Lemonade, which is delicious.  Either way, the punch jelly tasted about the same: strong.  My tasters and I agreed it was a little much…but by the end of the evening, 24 punch jellies had somehow made their way into the tummies of my guests.

Make these as a treat for your New Year’s party; they aren’t tasty enough to stand on their own, but your guests will be delighted to know that these are the “original”: the great-great grandfathers of the carnival-colored, fruit-flavored, jiggly Jell-O shots of today.  There is a historic precedent.

And if you had any illusions that the people of the past were somehow better (classier? more morally upright?) than us, check out what Thomas has to say about Punch Jellies:

This preparation is a very agreeable refreshment on a cold night, but should be used in moderation; the strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex, have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.

Ain’t that the truth.

Punch Jelly
From How to Mix Drinks, By Jerry Thomas, 1862.
Originally adapted by Miranda, with some further variations on my part.

The juice of 3 lemons
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water

1 cup cognac
1 cup dark Jamaican rum
2 packets unflavored gelatine

Make the lemonade by combining the lemon juice, sugar and water (or replace this with 2 cups store-bought lemonade).  Heat lemonade in a saucepan until it comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the gelatine, one packet at a time, by sprinkling it over the surface of the liquid and stirring until completely dissolved.  Allow to cool slightly, then add alcohols.  Pour into individual molds or shot glasses.  Makes approximately 16 shots.


There’s a new book: The Jell-O Shot Test Kitchen: Jell-ing Classic Cocktails–One Drink at a Time.  I’m unashamed of my affection for Jell-O shots.  Ima gonna get this book.

Cocktail Hour: Alabama Eggnog

AFAP: As Fluffy As Possible

“AN Alabama eggnog is one that caresses the palate with velvety goodness, and then once it is within the stomach, suddenly becomes the counterpart of a kicking mule.  It is a fluffy, saffron colored beverage, delicate in fragrances, daintily blended, and pungently persuasive.”

My Festivus party was last weekend and I decided to try an 1940s recipe for “Alabama Eggnog.”  It comes from The Food of a Younger Land, edited by Mark Kurlansky.  It’s a collection of essays written by the WPA’s Federal Writer’s Project that were compiled with the  intention of creating a compendium of regional American foods.  It was to be titled “America Eats,” but with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the start of WWII, the project was never completed.

Kurlansky has selected what he feels are the most interesting and most important essays.  The one about the Southern style eggnog caught my eye.  It was believed to have evolved in the antebellum south, in the “big houses,” where it was a slave who gathered “…Hundred of eggs… to be blended with choice, well-aged whiskeys that the planters had ordered from distant distilleries.”

It was still being made at lavish parties in the Depression era, despite the fact that prohibition was enforced in parts of Alabama.

The recipe, as told by an “aged Negro,” goes like this:

Take a dozen eggs, and beat the yellows and the whites separately, both very light.  Put half the sugar in the whites, and half in the yellows.  When the yellows are beaten together very light, add the whiskey, two tablespoonfuls to an egg.  The fold in the beaten whites, and at last fold in one pint whipped cream, adding more whiskey to taste.  This proportion can be used to make any amount of egg nog.

Alabama Eggnog
From the WPA Writer’s Project America Eats manuscript, c. 1940;
as it appears in The Food of a Younger Land edited by Mark Kurlansky

12 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whiskey
1 pint cream

Separate egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls; add half the sugar to each bowl.  With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; add to a large punch bowl.  Next, beat egg yolks until very light in color.  Fold together egg whites and yolks.  Add whiskey.  Whip cream until soft peaks form, fold into egg mixture.  Serve with a sprinkle of fresh grated nutmeg.


At my party, an excited crowd gathered as I mixed the nog.  I tasted the frothy egg mixture after added the recommended amount of whiskey…and then proceeded to double it, adding more whiskey 1/2 cup at a time, tasting after each addition.  I ended up adding a full three cups of whiskey before it tasted just right.

“More cream???”  Someone exclaimed as I began to fold in snowy peaks of whipped cream.  My guests were intimidated by the froth.  “But how do you drink it??”

But drinking it wasn’t a problem; despite its fluff, it was easy to serve and drink.  It was like drinking marshmallow booze.

“Eggnog!  Eggnog is the best!” cheered Roommate Jeff.  The Alabama eggnog was drunk up long before the party’s end.

Events: Cocktail Bitters

Saturday, October 15th

Alice, or the Scottish Gravediggers: An Evening of Victorian Medicine and  Cocktail Bitters.
6pm-8pm @ The Old Stone House, 336 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY

Polybe + Seats theater presents  a preview of Alice, or the Scottish Gravediggers in part with a bitters tasting with Historic GastronomistSarah Lohman.

Premiering in late October, Alice is an 1829 melodrama about a penniless orphan who works as a maid in her aunt’s inn and is torn between two suitors.  She subjects her body to mysterious experiments at a nearby medical school in exchange for treatment for her wounded beloved, a medical student himself.  At this event, you’ll get a preview of the play’s gothic set design, music, and art as well as a taste of how Victorian medicine begot the modern cocktail.

Arrive at six for a talk on the link between cocktail bitters and old fashioned medicine.  Afterwards, mix and mingle while sipping a bitters-focused cocktail, featuring Original Sin Hard Cider.  Then, attend a bitters tasting from local makers, and watch a demo on how to make your own bitters.

Attendees will receive a coupon for discounted admission to the premiere of Alice, or theScottish Gravedigggers.

This event is part of Open House New York and the Historic House Trust Festival Weekend.


The History Dish: Gazpacho and the Red Snapper

The first “gaspacho” recipe, from 1824.

Yesterday I appeared on Heritage Radio Network’s We Dig Plants, the bawdiest horticulture show on the web.  This past Sunday’s show was all about tomatoes, and I popped on as a special guest to share some historic tomato recipes. You can listen to the whole show here.

I brought along a few tubs of gazpacho I made from an 1824 recipes.  They were crazy delicious (I saved the leftover for my lunch today).  Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, published in 1824, has some of the earliest tomato recipes in print, and the first gazpacho recipe printed EVER on the planet.  At least that we know of.  The directions are pretty self explanatory, so here is the original recipe.

I did not stew and make my own tomato juice, I found this great, strained, tomato puree in a box at the store.  The gazpacho was more like a cold, fresh salad, and was really wonderful.  Carmen, one of the show’s hosts, even took some home to her tomato-hating husband in hopes that it would turn him into a tomato lover.

I also showed up with Bloody Marys–or, more accurately, Red Snappers, as they were originally known.  When the drink was created in the 1920s, vodka wasn’t yet widely available in the United States; the liquor of choice was gin!  The recipe for the Red Snapper, from the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis hotel in New York, is below. I actually prefer the gin over vodka; I would recommend Hendrick’s gin; the cucumber notes compliment the tomatoes beautifully.

The Red Snapper
From the St. Regis Bar, 1920s

1 1/2 oz Gin
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes Tabasco sauce
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
4 ounces tomato juice

Combine all ingredients in a glass and shake or stir to mix.  Serve chilled.


Both of these recipes are great if you need to use up a tomato surplus; For more history on both of these recipes, listen to the entire radio show here!

And on a somewhat unrelated note, I attended my first “crawfish boil” yesterday at the Brooklyn Brainery’s Summer Explosion.  I was all geared up to eat my first crayfish, but the sight of their yellow guts spilling out of their exoskeletons turned me off.  I don’t do well with invertebrates.  Instead, I stuffed my face with peach cobbler.

Cocktail Hour: Temperance Drinks

The Strawberry-Lemon Froth, made with not a drop of alcohol!

At the Boston 19th Century Pub Crawl last month, I got the chance to meet Frederic, one of the esteemed authors of Boston cocktail blog Cocktail Virgin Slut. After chatting over old-timey drinks, I invited him to do a guest post on FPF.  His response: “I have this great temperance book I’ve been meaning to try out!”

Not  the reaction you’d normally expect from a cocktail blogger.  But his article (below) carries a very lovely sentiment:  Sometimes you can’t drink. Sometimes you don’t want to drink. Sometimes, your guests feel the same way.  Why should a non-alcholic drink feel any less special than a cocktail; and more than that, as a good host you should go the extra mile to make your guests feel special.

Read more below.


When Prohibition rolled around in 1919, the growing art of American drink making that had gained steam in the mid 19th century came to a screeching halt. Alcohol was banned which did not stop its consumption, but the true craftsmen of the trade either fled the country to pursue their livelihood elsewhere or they changed fields entirely. The quality of alcohol dropped and the drinks made from it were less artful in their design and became more a crafty way to cover over harsh off flavors and stings. Well, it should be said that the growing art in alcoholic drink making in American came to a stop, but those in the Temperance movement seized the opportunity to provide guidance to hosts and hostesses on how to entertain. One of these individuals was Bertha E. L. Stockbridge. Her seminal 1920 book, What to Drink: The Blue Book of Beverages; Recipes and Directions for Making and Serving Non-alcoholic Drinks for all Occasions turned out to be just as valuable and intricate as the liquor-soaked ones of Jerry Thomas and Harry Johnson.

Bertha’s first book, the 1918 treatise The Liberty Cook Book: A Guide to Good Living Combined with Economy, with a Comprehensive Section on Up-to-date Canning, Preserving, Pickling, Jelly Making and Drying, showcased her culinary strengths from making breakfast cereals to cooking organ meats. While the section on non-alcoholic beverages in the book was rather short, her cookbook did provide the basis for her drink book by working out how to make a variety of flavored and fruit syrups that would become the key components in What to Drink. When Prohibition rolled around a year later, she soon saw the necessity to expound on this topic.

Bertha explained, “The hostess of to-day will be called upon to serve drinks in her home more than formerly, I imagine, and it were well to go back to the habits and customs of our grandmothers and be prepared to serve a refreshing drink in an attractive manner at a moment’s notice.” To prepare for guests, Bertha recommended having a stock of homemade or commercial syrups and vinegar-based shrubs ready to create satisfying beverages for guests. Since making these ingredients can be time consuming, Bertha offered up recipes to make all of that labor worth the while. One of the great differences between the alcoholic cocktail and the Temperance drink is that the latter often requires more effort to prepare, and time in the kitchen was almost a necessity. If the hostess is entertaining in a Dry way, Bertha offered advice on how to be popular despite eschewing spirits, and these pointers are reminiscent of Harry Johnson’s tips in his Bartender’s Manual on how to run a bar. On a more spiritual side, the book’s forward presented a parody of the Persian poet Omar Khayyám that read, “A Box of Chocolate underneath a bough,/An Ice Cream Cone, some Lemonade and Thou/Beside me singing in the Wilderness/Make Prohibition Paradise enow.” With a bit of time and effort, non-alcoholic drinks could perhaps be part of even a modern day Paradise, too.

In this day and age when alcohol is allowed again, nonalcoholic drinks still play a large role in entertaining guests. Between designated drivers, religious abstainers, pregnant women, people on medication, recovering alcoholics, and children, there are numerous reasons to prepare this sort of drink even at a Wet party. A good host or hostess should respect these guests and try to provide something more than a bottle of soda as the rest are served intricate and exotic alcohol-laden beverages. After my first dabbling with Bertha’s recipes in making the Tea Julep I was intrigued at the craftsmanship of the recipes and how well the flavor combinations held up today. While some of the recipes are quick to prepare, others require longer periods of steeping and infusing not to mention a variety of pre-made syrups; however, the efforts are worth it. Here are two more drinks from Bertha Stockbridge’s What to Drink:

The Georgia Mint Julep

Georgia Mint Julep
• 1 tsp Lemon Juice
• 1 tsp Powdered Sugar
• 1/4 cup Peach Syrup (*)
• 3/4 cup White Grape Juice
• 3 sprays Mint
In a tall goblet, crush a spray of mint at the bottom of the glass. Add sugar, a
little water, and lemon juice; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add peach syrup and
grape juice, and stir. Fill with crushed ice and garnish with the rest of the mint
sprays. Note: we made this drink 3/4 scale to fit our Julep cups.
(*) Peach syrup: While Bertha Stockbridge provided a more complicated peach
syrup recipe, I followed my old standby. I used one package of frozen (10 oz)
peach slices and added it to 8 oz water and 8 oz sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil
with stirring. Cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool
(overnight is fine), and squeeze and strain through a tea towel. The syrup will
keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator. Fresh peaches can be used, but once
you simmer them, the extra value in this freshness is lost.

While the traditional Georgia Mint Julep was Bourbon based with muddled
peach and sugar syrup, Bertha’s Temperance version captures the essence of
it save for some of the Bourbon notes. The grape and peach make a nice flavor
combination that works rather well with the mint. Unlike the alcoholic version,

this Julep cup was not able to acquire the beautiful frost on the outside of our
silver Julep cups. What is lost in the strength of the spirit in terms of drinking
satisfaction is gained in the larger volume of this sweet drink.

Strawberry-Lemon Froth
• 1 Egg White
• Juice 1/2 Lemon (1 oz)
• 3/4 cup Water
• 2 tsp Sugar
• 1/2 dozen Strawberries
Muddle all the strawberries (save for one) with sugar in the bottom of a cocktail
shaker. Add lemon juice, water, and ice, shake, and double strain (use a fine
strainer) into a tall glass. Separately, beat an egg white into a meringue and stir
stiffly into the drink. Garnish with a strawberry. Note: strawberries back in the
1920’s were a lot smaller than the large ones commonly found today; therefore, I
muddled 3 medium-large strawberries instead of 5.


I am not sure what precise drink recipe Bertha was trying to replicate, but there were gin and egg white-based Froth (or Froth Blower) drinks in the cocktail literature and a number of other drinks with strawberry and lemon juice. While the egg white might seem a little scary, it produces a light, creamy topping that can be stirred into the body of the drink. My egg whites were rather stiffly beaten which made it difficult to stir in especially with our glasses being rather full. Regardless, the drink started with a delightful strawberry aroma. The creamy meringue gave way to a slightly tart lemon sip and a strawberry swallow. Over successive sips, the strawberry notes increased in intensity. The only change I would make would be to drop the water to 3-4 ounces for the drink seemed a little thin; perhaps, this is my bias toward more potent and shorter alcohol based

The value of Bertha Stockbridge’s recipes, even in these days post-Prohibition, is that there will always be people who do not drink alcohol. Moreover, these guests deserve to be pampered just as much as the drinkers in the group do. True, many of Bertha’s recipes in What to Drink are rather labor intensive, but many of them scale up rather well, and the extra effort will definitely be appreciated. Lastly, even if you are in the mood for a stiffer drink, these recipes can be useful. The back cover of our book reads, “However, if one were to add a drop or two of Bathtub Gin to these already tasty drinks, they would only be that much more ‘authentic’ to the period. Wouldn’t you agree?” Cheers!

What to Drink can be bought through Amazon or read online on Archive.org.

Cocktail Hour: Drinking Cherry Bounce

Cherry Bounce!

Remember waaaaay back in August when I told you my friend Mike was making Cherry Bounce? Refresh you memory here. When I returned to my hometown of Cleveland for the holidays, the bounce was done and ready to be taste tested.

Mike strained and bottled it before serving.  Everyone was skeptical as it was poured out: the nose was more than a little like cough syrup.  It was downed with the anticipation of fake cherry flavoring…and then, as it flowed over your tongue, you realized it was nothing but the real thing.  Delicious whiskey infused with honest-to-goodness cherries.  It was sweet, but not too sweet, and the cherry flavor was pronounced.  But don’t let its rosy color and candy sweetness fool you: it was STRONG.  It’ll put some hair on your chest, that’s for sure.

I feel like it has tremendous mixing potential, but haven’t figured out with what yet.  Perhaps just over ice in the summer, with a splash of seltzer.

Clevelanders that were there and sampled it, what did you think? Does your opinion differ?

Events: Out of the Bathtub, a Repeal Day Cocktail Party

On December 5th, from 6-8pm, celebrate your right to imbibe at a Repeal Day Cocktail Party! Hosted in the elegant Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the night will include four different cocktails crafted by Frank Caiafa, cocktail expert and head of Peacock Alley’s beverage program. The drink list will be exclusive to this event and include recreations of classic cocktails downed in backdoor speakeasys, as well as modern concoctions inspired by their Prohibition predecessors. Light appetizers will be provided by the Waldorf-Astoria kitchens.

Caiafa will also be on hand to speak about Peacock Alley’s unique history, and the Waldorf-Astoria’s link to the Prohibition era. Scotch Whisky expert Kristina Sutter will discuss the history of Prohibition and how it came to a close.

So come tip your glass to the end of Prohibition and join us for historic cocktails in an incomparable location. Appropriate cocktail attire is required.

Tickets are $45 at the door. Space is limited, RSVP to [email protected]

Cocktail Hour: Drink What Dickens Drank

Oh, Dickens! Always boozing. Illustration by Peter Van Hyning.

When Charles Dickens made his first trip to America in 1842 (recorded in American Notes for General Circulation), he made certain to partake of one of the greatest American inventions: the cocktail.  While visiting Boston, he said “the bar is a large room with a stone floor, and there people stand and smoke, and lounge about, all the evening dropping in and out as the humor takes them.  There too the stranger is initiated into the mysteries of Gin-sling, Cocktail, Sangaree, Mint Julep, Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle, and other rare drinks.”

Dickens didn’t write down any recipes for these “rare drinks”, but fortunately some of his contemporaries did.  Captain Alexander, who toured America in 1833, recorded the directions for making The Cock Tail, along with four other drinks he had at the City Hotel in New York, prepared by a celebrity bartender named Willard.  Another English tourist, Captain Marryat, recorded his experiences with Mint Juleps after he made a trip to America in 1837.   He said: “I once overheard two ladies talking in the next room to me, and one of them said, ‘Well if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a mint julep!’–a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and good taste. They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”  I think that quote is like the best thing ever.

Much of what we know about Victorian cocktails comes from How to Mix Drinks; or, the Bon-Vivants Companion by Prof. Jerry Thomas, published in 1862. Which, thanks to Google, is now online.

Couldn’t make it out to What Dickens Drank at apex art last week?  No worries; below, all the recipes you need to mix an 1840s cocktail at home.  Photos from the event, and more, can be found here.

Cocktail Hour: Bowled Over

The Pineapple Julep.

“This is a tricky time of year for cocktails. We’ve turned the corner into fall, and yet it’s still hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. How can we ease the transition from frosty summer concoctions to warm winter imbibements? Make a bowl of punch!”

This week, I’ve got an article up on The Spirit ( thespir.it ) on fall punches.  For a brief history of punch and delicious recipes, read the full article here.

Ruby Punch.

Cocktail Hour: Cherry Bounce

My dear friend Eva has always wanted to taste Cherry Bounce, an infusion of dark, ripe cherries in bourbon.  Well Eva: this post is for you.

I had to commission my friend Mike in Cleveland to make the Bounce.  It involved fermeting things in jugs in dark cool places for months at a time. I live in a Tenement with two roommates. It’s not the ideal brewing environment.  Mike has a normal person house and is also an avid brewer.

Below is Mike’s account of Bounce creation; it will take about 3 months to infuse, so we’ll do a tasting around Christmastime.  The results will be a mystery until then!

Cherry Bounce

Adapted by Mike from Directions for Cookery By Eliza Leslie
Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & Hart, 1840.

  • 1 lb of Sweet Cherries (I used Bing)
  • 1 lb of Sour Cherries (I grabbed what they had, Pie cherries don’t come so easy to the local mega mart)
  • ½ lb of Brown Sugar (It’s closer to the old refined sugar than white sugar, and I like molasses)
  • 1.135 L of Bourbon Whisky (I had a 750 bottle of Wild Turkey 101, we needed to add 385 mL of filtered Cleveland tap water to make volume.)

I weighed out the cherries with my digital scale; hand pitted them and crushed them into the jar one by one. My mortar and pestle was far too small for all those pits, so I put them in a sandwich bag and used my meat tenderizer to crack them open (Pro tip: If you pit and crush cherries by hand, don’t wear a white shirt and use an apron). I got about 70% of them well shattered and the rest should at least be cracked.

Cracking the pits.

I added 385ml of water from a filtered tap source.

I next weighed out 8 oz. of brown sugar and mixed it with the cherries.

I added the bottle of Wild Turkey, sealed the lid, and wiped down the outside of the jar.

The jar sits in my basement near my lagering fridge and will be agitated daily throughout August.

I expect to yield approximately 2 pints at 70° proof.


Do you have a challenge for the blog?  A recipe you’ve always been curious about? A food you want to subject me to? A mystery to solve? Leave your requests in the comments on this post!