You may have heard of the dessert called Posset but you might not be as familiar with the drink called Posset. Historically, Posset was a widely consumed drink from at least medieval times but unfortunately today has fallen out of favour and you will be hard-pressed to find Posset drink recipes.
Which is a terrible shame as Posset is delicious and in this article I explain what Posset is, the history of the drink and three recipes so you can replicate the drink today.
Let’s explore this wonderful drink lost to time.
What is Posset Drink?
Today if you open up the glossary or index of a recipe book and find the word Posset you will likely find a recipe for Lemon Posset – a sweet dessert.
Go a hundred years or more back in time and the same search of an index would have provided a drink recipe made with hot or warmed milk combined with alcohol (or on rarer occasions a non-alcoholic version).
The drink went be a few name variations sometimes referred to as Posset, poshote, poshotte or the rather funny by modern vernacular poosay.
Other names for Posset in medieval recipe books are:
When Was Posset Invented?
It is not known when the drink was first create but recipes for Posset first started to appear in the 15th century. The earliest mention is the 1460 ‘Boke of Nurture’ where it is called possate.
It is worth noting the printing press was invented in 1440 and recipe books were uncommon before this invention. It may be the case Posset is a much older drink that would be passed down through generations in handwritten or oral form.
With the invention of the printing press, the laborious task of hand copying books was eliminated and books on a range of subjects blossomed because it was easier to print and distribute books.
It is estimated in the 15th century alone, book publication grew from a few hundred titles to tens of thousands.
Who Drank Posset?
Initially Posset would have been a relatively high status drink due to the ingredients. As time went by and ingredients became more common, it began to make its way down social classes until the Victorian era when Posset was enjoyed by everyone.
Cultural Depictions of Posset
Possets have frequently popped up in literature and on screen, especially historical or period pieces. Lady Macbeth uses Possets laced with poison in Macbeth and Kay Harker enjoys a Posset in the wonderful children’s book (and subsequent TV adaptation) The Box of Delights.
In fact, I have included Kay’s non-alcoholic Posset in my recipes below. Don’t worry, I steered clear of Lady Macbeth’s poisonous Posset.
Boozy Posset Recipe 1 – Posset Drink Recipes
When compiling recipes for Possets it can be difficult because most of the recipes are in old English and presume some prior knowledge on the method. Nevertheless, we have a fairly good idea about how Possets were made as Victorian recipe books also contain variations of them.
Ingredients for the Boozy Posset
- Milk (this can be substituted with a non-dairy milk providing it has a comparable fat content).
- Candied Anise (Star Anise will suffice if you don’t have access to candied anise)
- Nutmeg (use whole nutmeg and grate)
Method for Boozy Posset
Boil the milk and add the brandy. Stir and then let the mixture boil again. Once boiling take the pot off the heat and allow to cool. You should find two separate layers (curds and whey): the whey is the pale thin liquid, and you should pour this away. The curds should be a thicker liquid.
This leaves you with brandy milk curd mixture. The consistency of which should still be liquid in nature, if it has firmed up you have effectively made brandy cheese – and that won’t make for a good drink!
From here add a touch of ginger, sugar, a splash of sherry and your star anise while warming the Posset gently. Finally, grate in some nutmeg and stir.
Once warmed (but not re-boiled) pour into your favourite mug and enjoy. Perfect for warming up on a cold winter’s evening.
Less Boozy Posset Recipe 2 – Posset Drink Recipes
The less boozy Posset follows exactly the same method as the boozy Posset above. However, there is no brandy or sherry. Instead, you will be using wine or a sweet ale for your alcohol. Preferably table-beer if you can get it or a German wheat beer (also known as white beer).
All you need to do is add the beer or wine to your milk in the first step and then continue along the same method. It is entirely up to you if you add a splash of sherry to finish but be advised you will be experimenting a little if you use beer as your base.
Some wheat beers work well with sherry, others don’t – experiment away!
Non-Alcoholic Posset Recipe – Posset Drink Recipes
For a family friendly Posset, you will need different ingredients. As mentioned, this version is sourced directly from The Box of Delights.
Ingredients for Non-Alcoholic Posset
Method for Non-Alcoholic Posset
With the addition of the egg, you won’t want to boil the milk this time. Instead heat the milk until warm and add one egg and stir gently in. Once completely stirred in, add a generous dollop of treacle to sweeten and grate some nutmeg to finish.
This Posset is delightful and my favourite of the three. Be sure to use fresh nutmeg and grate it yourself as pre-grated nutmeg loses its potency. Also, you can add a blended scotch to the finished mixture if you want to enjoy something adult while the kids enjoy theirs.