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A glass of the modern lemon posset dessert, served with almond bread

A posset (also historically spelled poshote, poshotte, poosay) was originally a popular British hot drink made of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced,[1] which was often used as a remedy.

The original drink became extinct and the name was revived in the 19th century and applied to a cream, sugar and citrus-based confection, which is consumed today as a cold set dessert nearly indistinguishable from syllabub.


Posset pot, Netherlands, Late 17th or early 18th century, Tin-glazed earthenware painted in blue V&A Museum no. 3841-1901[2] Victoria and Albert Museum, London

To make the drink, milk was heated to a boil, then mixed with wine or ale, which curdled it, and spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon.[3]

It was considered a specific remedy for some minor illnesses, such as a cold, and a general remedy for others, as even today people drink hot milk to help them sleep.


A 1661 posset pot from England.

The OED traces the word to the 15th century: various Latin vocabularies translate balducta, bedulta, or casius as "poshet", "poshoote", "possyt", or "possot". Russell's Boke of Nurture (c. 1460) lists various dishes and ingredients that "close a mannes stomak", including "þe possate". Posset is frequently used as a starting point for other recipes (e.g. "Make a styf Poshote of Milke an Ale", and "Take cowe Mylke, & set it ouer þe fyre, & þrow þer-on Saunderys, & make a styf poshotte of Ale", each of which is the first sentence of a longer recipe).[4] Recipes for it appear in other 15th-century sources: boil milk, add either wine or ale "and no salt", let it cool, gather the curds and discard the whey, and season with ginger, sugar, and possibly "sweet wine" and candied anise.[3][5] Certain monks would make a posset including eggs and figs, a possible precursor to eggnog.[6]

In 14th and 15th century cookery manuals, a possibly-related word, spelled variously "possenet", "postnet", or "posnet", is used to mean a small pot or saucepan.[7][8] In 16th-century and later sources, possets are generally made from lemon or other citrus juice, cream and sugar. Eggs are often added. Some recipes used breadcrumbs to thicken the beverage.

"Posset sets" for mixing and serving possets were popular gifts, and valuable ones (often made of silver) were heirlooms. Such sets contained a posset "pot", or "bowl", or "cup" to serve it in, a container for mixing it in, and usually various containers for the ingredients, as well as spoons. The posset set that the Spanish ambassador gave Queen Mary I of England and King Philip II of Spain when they became betrothed in 1554 is believed to have been made by Benvenuto Cellini and is of crystal, gold, precious gems, and enamel. It is on display at Hatfield House in England and consists of a large, stemmed, covered bowl; two open, stemmed vessels; a covered container; three spoons; and two forks.

The word "posset" is mostly used nowadays for a cold set dessert invented in the late 19th c., containing cream and lemon, similar to syllabub. It is also used to refer to the semi-digested milk brought up by babies after a feed.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ "Posset Pot". Metalwork. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  3. ^ a b Hieatt and Pensado 1988, Item 130.
  4. ^ Austin 1888.
  5. ^ Napier 1882.
  6. ^ "A Brief History of Eggnog". 21 December 2011.
  7. ^ Hieatt and Butler 1985, Item 1, Diversa Cibaria; items 32, 54, Forme of Cury; item 26, Diuersa Servicia; item 32, Utilis Coquinario.
  8. ^ Austin 1888, Item 89, Harley MS 279; "Stwed Beef" and "Stwed Mutton", Harley MS 4016.
  9. ^ Waddilove 2006, p. 65.


External links

11 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link


A spiced drink of hot sweetened milk curdled with wine or ale.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English poshet, possot : perhaps Old French *posce (Latin posca, drink of vinegar and water, from potare, to drink; see potable + Latin esca, food, from edere, to eat; see edible) + Middle English hot, hot; see hot.…

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

"..What posies for our wedding rings;
What gloves we'll give, and ribbonings;
And smiling at our selves, decree
Who then the joining priest shall be;
What short sweet prayers shall be said,
And how the posset shall be made
With cream of lilies, not of kine,
And maiden's-blush for spiced wine.
Thus having talk'd, we'll next commend
A kiss to each, and so we'll end..."…

Both pancake and fritter of milk have good store,
But a Devonshire white-pot must needs have much more;
Of no brew ... you can think,
Though you study and wink,
From the lusty sack posset to poor posset drink,
But milk's the ingredient, though wine's ... ne'er the worse,
For 'tis wine makes the man, though 'tis milk makes the nurse.
.....No doubt the original word in these places was SACK, as in Chappell's copy - but what would a peasant understand by SACK?
Dryden's receipt for a sack posset is as follows:-
'From fair Barbadoes, on the western main,
Fetch sugar half-a-pound: fetch sack, from Spain,
A pint: then fetch, from India's fertile coast,
Nutmeg, the glory of the British toast.'…


Next (Poem 68) ...
"quod posset zonam soluere uirgineam. ..
that could untie her girdle of virginity. "…

Martha R  •  Link

Posset recipes

A couple of posset recipes and some historical detail are at this website,
along with a portrait of Sir Kenelm Digby:…

Pedro  •  Link


Properly means a drink taken before going to bed; it was milk curdled with wine.

"In his morning draught...his concerves or cates...and when he goeth to bedde his posset smoking hot."
Man in the Moone (1609)

Australian Susan  •  Link

As a child in the '50s, I was given a posset if ill and unable to take solid food: it was milk, with an egg beaten up in it, sugar and sherry. Wonderful comfort food. It is used as such in the children's classic book, The Box of Delights.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

another Posset:To make a posset
PERIOD: England, 17th century | SOURCE: The Art of Cookery Refined and Augmented, 1654 | CLASS: Authentic
DESCRIPTION: A posset, a cream & wine custard
from:a interesting sauce.…
To make a posset.
Take a quart of new Cream, a quarter of an ounce of Cynamon, Nutmeg quartered, and boyl it till it taste of the spice, and keep it alwayes stirring, or it will burn to; then take the yolks of 7 Eggs beaten well together with a little cold Creame; then put that into the other Creame that is on the fire, and stir it till it begin to boyle; then take it off and sweeten it with Sugar, and stir on till it be indifferent coole; then take somewhat more than a quarter of a pinte of Sack (half a pinte will be too much) sweeten that also, and set it on the fire till it be ready to boyle; then put it in a convenient vessel, and pour your Creame into it, elevating your hand to make it froath, which is the grace of your Posset; and if you put it thorow a tunnell, it is held the more exquisite way.

Adam  •  Link

I've just made a posset.
It is very nice but more than one cup may cause excessive vomiting due to the whole cream/sugar/sherry mixture. The top goes all lumpy and you can spoon that out, the middle is the nicest bit where the spicy cream mixes with the sherry and the bottom bit is mainly sherry.
Nice, but I couldn't get my housemates to have any.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

POSSET, [posca, Lat.] milk curdled with treacle, wine, or any acid.
---The Royal English dictionary. D Fenning, 1763.

Bill  •  Link

I have drugg'd their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.

Bill  •  Link

A Sack Posset.
take fourteen Eggs, leave out half the Whites, beat them with a quarter of a Pound of fine Sugar, some Eringo Roots slic'd thin, with a quarter of a Pint of Sack; mix it well together, and set it on the Fire; keep it stirring all the while, and one Way; When 'tis scalding hot, let another, whilst you stir it, pour into it a Quart of Cream boiling hot, with a grated Nutmeg boil'd in't; then take it off the Fire, and clap a hot Pie-Plate on it, and let it stand a quarter of an Hour.
---Court cookery. R. Smith, 1725.

Actually, served cold, with rum instead of Sack, this sounds like my favorite Christmas drink!

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



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