When Andrew Jackson was inaugurated on March 4, 1829, it was like "the homecoming of a hero" as twenty thousand of his loyal supporters, who believed he had been cheated out of the White House four years earlier, converged upon Washington, eager to celebrate the long-delayed victory of their champion.
According to food historian Poppy Cannon, Jackson's inauguration "sparked a celebration that did everything but set fire to the White House." Thousands of rowdy fans poured into the building and "little thought was given to the delicate French furniture, elegant draperies, and fine china" as ice cream, punch, cakes and ices were gobbled up as fast they appeared on long serving tables."
In a letter to her sister, Margaret Bayard Smith, a prominent Washington socialite, described the chaos of Jackson's inaugural festivities this way:
But what a scene did we witness! The Majesty of the People had disappeared, and a rabble, a mob, of boys, negros, women, children, scrambling fighting, romping. What a pity, what a pity! No arrangements had been made, no police officers placed on duty, and the whole house had been inundated by the rabble mob...
Cut glass and china to the amount of several thousand dollars had been broken in the struggle to get the refreshments, punch and other articles had been carried out in tubs and buckets, but had it been in hogsheads it would have been insufficient...
Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses, and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe…This concourse had not been anticipated...Ladies and gentlemen only had been expected at this Levee, not the people en masse. But it was the People's day, and the People's President, and the People would rule!
Another observer described the day's events this way:
Orange-punch by barrels full was inside, but as the waiters opened the door to bring it out, a rush would be made, the glasses broken, the pails of liquor upset, and the most painful confusion prevailed. To such a degree was this carried, that tubs of punch were taken from the lower story into the garden to lead off the crowds from the rooms.
Although no one knows exactly how those quick-thinking waiters prepared the punch that day, a writer for The Wall Street Journal scoured some ninteeenth century cookbooks and provided this adapted recipe for Inaugural Orange Punch that's "easy to make by the bucketful" if you've got a mob to entertain!
3 parts fresh orange juice
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part Mulled Orange Syrup*
1 part dark rum
1 part cognac
2 parts soda water
Mulled Orange Syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Add the peel from an orange and mulling spices (a couple of cinnamon sticks, some whole cloves and allspice berries). After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let it sit for several hours. Strain.
Combine Mulled Orange Syrup and all other ingredients in a punch bowl with a large block of ice. Serve in punch cups with a little crushed ice. Add a dash of Angostura bitters to each glass and enjoy!