American Orange Punch

Party like it’s 1829

photo: Margaret Houston

In the nineteenth century, most Americans didn’t have electricity, or even indoor plumbing. But they sure knew how to party. That’s the whole idea behind New Orleans’ Cane & Table. Set in a centuries-old building on the less-touristy end of the French Quarter, the establishment from the talent behind Crescent City cocktail palace, Cure, features beverages inspired by the way Southerners were drinking in the 1800s.

For special occasions, Cane & Table head bartender and managing partner Nick Detrich always mixes up a big bowl of punch. For Halloween this year, he served a classic with a great backstory: American Orange Punch. At Andrew Jackson’s inauguration in 1829, the tale goes, the incoming President threw a White House reception so overrun by rowdy revelers that a Supreme Court justice referred to them as “King Mob.” Only when White House staffers brought bowls of this punch out onto the lawn did the crowd exit the building, leaving behind thousands of dollars in damages.

The secret to this punch is sherbet. But not the frozen dessert you may be thinking of. In the 1800s, sherbet meant a mix of citrus juice and oleo-saccharum, an elixir created by using sugar to extract the flavorful oils from citrus peels. In Detrich’s American Orange Punch, the sherbet combines with rich porter beer and any kind of aged spirit—rum and Cognac would have been traditional in Old Hickory’s day, but bourbon or rye (or a mix of any of the above) work too—to create a tasty libation that can keep the good times going all the way through fall and winter citrus season.


    • 16 oz. aged rum, Cognac, rye whiskey, or bourbon

    • 1 recipe Sherbet (see below)

    • 2 (12-oz.) bottles porter beer

    • 16 oz. water

    • Orange slices (for garnish)

  • Sherbet

    • 3 whole oranges

    • 3/4 cup sugar

    • Half a whole nutmeg, grated


  1. Add all the ingredients to a punch bowl filled with a large ice block and stir to combine. Serve in punch cups over fresh ice.

  2. For the sherbet:
    Peel the oranges, reserving both fruit and peels. Combine the peels, sugar, and nutmeg in a small bowl and let stand until the sugar is clumpy and aromatic with orange oil, about 1 hour. Juice the reserved oranges and add to the sugar mixture, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Strain to remove the peels and refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe from Nick Detrich of Cane & Table in New Orleans, Lousiana