Pope on Posset, Alexander That Is

Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope

Rumored to be from the pen of Alexander Pope, the following recipe for “East-Indian style posset” in poetic form illustrates what impact East India merchants had on English tastes in the early eighteenth century. Actually a punch, the name for which came from the Hindu word for “five” (the number of ingredients in the original dish),  it found great favor with the Portuguese in Goa. From there the drink spread to the English enclaves in Calcutta and Madras and back to England where it was served from special “Posset Pots.”

From far Barbados on the Western main

Fetch sugar, ounces four, fetch sac from Spain,

One pint, and from the East India coast,

Nutmeg; the glory of the Northern Toast,

On flaming coals let them together heat,

Till the all conqueroring sac dissolve the sweet,

On such another fire put eggs, just ten,

(New-born, from the tread of cock and rump of hen),

Stir them with steady hand, and conscience pricking

To see the end of ten fine chicken,

From shining shelf, take down the brazen skillet,

A quart of milk from gentle cow and fill it

When boiled and cold, out milk to sac and eggs,

Posset Pot
Posset Pot

United them firmly, like the triple league,

And on the fire let them together dwell.

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