Before Eggnog There Was Posset
The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened: Whereby Is Discovered Several Ways for Making of Metheglin, Sider, Cherry-Wine, &c. Together with Excellent Directions for Cookery: As Also for Preserving, Conserving, Candying, &c. (1669), page 111:
TO MAKE A SACK POSSET
Boil two wine-quarts of Sweet-cream in a Possnet; when it hath boiled a little, take it from the fire, and beat the yolks of nine or ten fresh Eggs, and the whites of four with it, beginning with two or three spoonfuls, and adding more till all be incorporated; then set it over the fire, to recover a good degree of heat, but not so much as to boil; and always stir it one way, least you break the consistence. In the mean time, let half a pint of Sack or White muscadin boil a very little in a bason, upon a Chafing-dish of Coals, with three quarters of a pound of Sugar, and three or four quartered Nutmegs, and as many pretty big pieces of sticks of Cinnamon. When this is well scummed, and still very hot, take it from the fire, and immediately pour into it the cream, beginning to pour neer it, but raising by degrees your hand so that it may fall down from a good height; and without anymore to be done, it will then be fit to eat. It is very good kept cold as well as eaten hot. It doth very well with it, to put into the Sack (immediately before you put in the cream) some Ambergreece, or Ambered-sugar, or Pastils. When it is made, you may put powder of Cinnamon and Sugar upon it, if you like it.
[Sack is a dry sherry, aged in port barrels.]
A Righte Merrie Christmasse: The Story of Christ-Tide” by John Ashton (London, 1894)
“At nine or ten o’clock is brewed a large bowl of ‘poor man’s punch’– ale posset! This is the event of the night. Ale posset, or milk and ale posset as some call it, is made in this wise. Set a quart of milk on the fire. While it boils, crumble a twopenny loaf into a deep bowl, upon which pour the boiling milk. Next, set two quarts of good ale to boil, into which grate ginger and nutmeg, adding a quantity of sugar. When the ale nearly boils, add it to the milk and bread in the bowl, stirring it while it is being poured in.
The bowl of ale posset is then placed in the centre of the table. All the single folks gather round, each provided with a spoon. Then follows an interesting ceremony. A wedding ring, a bone button, and a fourpenny piece are thrown into the bowl, and all begin to eat, each dipping to the bottom of the bowl. He or she who brings up the ring will be the first married; whoever brings up the button will be an old maid or an old bachelor; and he or she who brings out the coin will become the richest. As may be imagined, this creates great fun. When seven shilling gold pieces were in circulation, this was the coin always thrown into the posset.”
Hot Milk and Whiskey
I experimented with old recipes and, surprise surprise, didn’t find traditional possets pleasing at all. Well, I don’t mind curdled milk, but not with hot alcohol like ale or sherry. The only variation I enjoyed was my own “invention” — hot frothed milk flavored with honey (or caramel) and whiskey. Not curdled. This winter I spent more time researching hot milk and whiskey drinks and found Scottish Posset and Scáiltín. There is very little information available about them. I do not know how traditional or popular they are now. The only difference between Scottish Posset and “my” recipe is a thickener. I used Xanthan gum instead of oatmeal. I couldn’t resist to modify the recipe a little. There is no reason to strain oats, if you have a good blender. They add silky viscosity to the drink.