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A posset is a hot milk drink, popular in the Middle Ages for its supposed medicinal properties. Wine or ale was added to the milk, which curdled it, and the mixture was usually spiced. It was considered a specific remedy for some minor illnesses, such as a cold, and a general remedy for others. Today some people still drink hot milk drinks to help them get to sleep. A caudle was a later development that added a thickening agent -- usually some kind of grain (a cereal or "gruel") but sometimes eggs -- which also increased its nutritional value. Honey, and other sweeteners were later added to the drink. Egg nog belongs to the same family of milk punches, however is now often served cold.
The preparation of posset can be elaborate; in fact the word "posset" became a verb (though, now seldom used), meaning to coddle or pamper someone by taking trouble to make them comfortable.
"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 one 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 crystal vase, three spoons, and two forks.
See also: horchata