Feb 6, 2012

Punch, Anyone?

by Emily May

Imagine the year is 1816 and you're at the Worthington's masquerade ball...

There's something about a masquerade—a freedom, an edge of the risqué.  The music has an edge to it, a slight wildness not found at more formal balls. The waltz is no staid Almack’s dance, but something far more exhilarating and fast-paced.The musicians’ exuberance is infectious. Your partner whirls you around the dance floor until you're breathless and laughing. 

The music stops. A winged fairy flits past, giggling behind her mask, pursued by a horned satyr.

‘Would you like some punch?’ your partner asks, as he escorts you off the dance floor.

Recklessly you nod.

People drank a lot of alcohol in the Regency. It wasn't uncommon for men to have ale at breakfast, or to drink several bottles of wine with their dinner. So at the Worthington's masquerade ball there is alcohol aplenty. Deep red clarets, light Rhone whites, sparkling flutes of champagne -- and the famous Worthington punch.

There were a number of different types of punch during the Regency. Rum Punch had rum (obviously), lemon, arrack (a coarse spirit), and sugar. Negus consisted of port, lemon, sugar, and spices. Regent's Punch was a potent mix of rum, brandy, hock (a white wine), curacao (an orange-flavoured liqueur), champagne, and various fruits.


It's a variation of Regent's Punch that the Worthingtons serve, with slices of strawberry and orange floating in it. You sip it, as the music swirls around you. Eyes glitter behind masks, laughter is loud, and the guests blatantly flirt with one another as they dance.

And maybe you drink a little too much punch and steal an illicit kiss with another guest...


That particular tale, with the masquerade ball and the punch, is Lady Isabella's, the heroine of Beauty and the Scarred Hero, which is out this month in the UK. I've never been to a proper masquerade ball, but  I've been to a number of fancy dress parties, and they've been loads of fun! I can only imagine what a proper masquerade ball would be like, with everyone masked. I think it would be a heady experience--especially if Regent's Punch was served!

Here's me as a cancan girl at a Wild West fancy dress party
(with two cowgirls called  Ali and Paula)
Have you ever been to a fancy dress party? What's your favourite costume?!

Glasses and music image courtesty of WPClipart.


  1. Emily, a masquerade sounds heaps of fun! But those punch recipes would give a kick - I think I should stick to water (boiled water that I brought in my bag because I don't trust the Regency water standard).

    I *loved* Beauty & the Scarred Hero. Maybe I should dig it out and reread... :)

  2. Hi Emily,

    Fascinating post! Isn't it great when research leads you down interesting byways.

    Fave costume? I remember being invited to a 'Conservative' party (which had absolutely nothing to do with political affiliations. Some wonderful costumes. One guy wore striped pjs and carried as teddy as he was so conservative it was past his bed time. Someone else was a square (she wore high heels, fishnet stockings and a cardboard box). My fave though was one of the hosts who wore a green garbage bag with white bread taped front and back. She had an interesting collar that looked like a slice of cucumber. Of course she was a cucumber sandwich!

  3. They'd pack a SERIOUS kick, Rachel! Half a glass of the Regent's Punch and I'd probably be under the table! Glad you enjoyed B&SH -- I had a lot of fun writing that masquerade scene.

  4. Ooh, Annie -- I love the idea of a 'Conservative' fancy dress party! There would have been lots of polyester suits, I imagine? And twinsets and pearls? And a cucumber sandwich!!! Very cool.

  5. The best we did was holding a Halloween party I came as Cinderella - before her fairy god mother did her magic! It was quite fun! Ashes & a "mop bucket" for my drink of course!
    I love this scene that you shared with us again:)
    Keep up the great work & the picture was fun too!
    Jacque' Spillman

  6. Ooh, I wouldn't say no to a masquerade ball, Emily, nor to a glass of Regent's Punch (though, I might sit on it for a very long time). :-)

    When I was at Uni, my flatmate and I held a 70's fancy dress party. There were some wonderful kaftans and cat suits...not to mention KISS and ABBA lookalikes. I wore a poncho -- thick crotcheted wool in those wonderful 70's shades of green, brown and cream. Ah, those were the days. :-)

  7. Hi Jacque! Cinderella -- before her transformation -- sounds super fun!!

    Glad you like the masquerade scene! When I reread it this weekend it really made me want to go to a masquerade ball. The dancing, the costumes, the punch ... and maybe I'd be lucky enough to meet a Major Reynolds!

  8. A 70's party?! How fabulous, Michelle! Platform shoes and flares and crocheted ponchos! The 1920s party at last year's RWAus conference was fun -- I guess that in 50 years we'll have a 70's party at conference! Will I be there with my zimmer frame and my flares...? Hmmm. Only time will tell!

  9. Emily, I think I'd be under the table with you after a glass of that Regent's Punch! LOL

    Those masquarade parties must have been thoroughly wicked affairs! I loved the one in your book Beauty and The Scarred Hero! It was a fabulous book!

    I enjoy fancy dress parties - the best ones are when lots of people dress up. Our RWAustralia cocktail parties are fantastic fun! I think my fave costume of the one's I've worn would have to be Cleopatra... but the 1920's flapper dress was fun too. I love the way the tassels feel swing at the bottom of the hem!


  10. Hi Sharon! Your flapper dress last year was fabulous with all those tassels!

    You may definitely share some space under the table with me -- and maybe Rachel will take pity on us and offer us some of that boiled water she brought with her!

    And if we could go back in time to a fictional ball, the Worthington's one would be wicked fun!

  11. I went to a fancy dress party once dressed as a cave woman. It was easy to throw together & so much fun.

  12. Hi Marybelle. A cave woman would be a fun costume! Did you brush your hair into a disheveled mess? Blacken a few teeth? And of course you had the perfect excuse to ignore knives and forks and eat with your fingers!

  13. My husband was a sales representative for a number of years and there would be a costume party at some of the conventions. Our all time favorites outfits were Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Anne. I made us both wigs out of red wool and shower caps using a rug hook. I had a pair of pj's that fit the theme and I made my husband a rag patched outfit. Hardest part was finding enough red patches for his outfit.

    I'm not sure I'd drink a whole lot of punch but I would certainly nurse a drink all the way though the party. I used to drink straight rum just so I could nurse just one drink through a long time. It's funny how if you are drinking just rum the rest of the party is impressed but they press less drinks on you. Great way to stay sober.

  14. The only fancy dress parties I've been too in the last few years are the RWAus ones at the conference, but I love them! Of the costumes I've worn, my favourite was my dress for the Harlequin centenary - it was a dress made of Mills & Boon/Harlequin covers :)

    (BTW, I like the sound of some of the spice punches, sounds yum! Although I suspect with more of a kick than the chai latte I'm sipping now :) ).

  15. Kaelee, I am SO impressed that you made wigs!!! Thanks for the tip re drinking rum ... I've never been a rum drinker, but it sounds like a good way of staying sober!

  16. Leah, I must have missed the M&B dress you wore -- it sounds Absolutely Fabulous! Do you have pics of it?

    And as for chai latte vs rum punch ... I suspect you're right: the punch would pack WAY more of a kick!

  17. I have been to a fancy dress party but not a costume party.

    Some of my costumes that I have liked have been a Hippie, a 1950's sock hopper(poodle skirt and black & white saddle shoes), a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, and a Pumpkin.

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