In the Middle Ages, posset was a warm dish served to invalids and those suffering from a fever or cold. Milk was heated and then curdled by adding spiced wine, spirits, or ale. Egg yolks might be added as a thickener or to create a smooth thin custard-like drink. During the 18th and 19th centuries, lemons and oranges were used as part of the flavoring and/or for their acidic juices to aid the curdling. Sack posset made with Spanish fortified sherry-style wine was particularly popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. By the mid-18th century posset tended to be thickened with ground almonds, crushed biscuits, or egg yolks instead of alcohol.
Posset consistency, while thick, remained drinkable. For example, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth slips poison into the possets of the guards outside Duncan’s quarters so they wouldn’t get in her murderous way, the beverage drank by the guards. Possets left sitting or allowed to cool would separate, creating a dessert layer of sweet gruel floating above the liquid. Posset pots, made of ceramic or metal, were specifically designed for the job: the spout allowing the liquid part to be poured and the thick layer eaten with a spoon.
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