Posca: An ancient Roman energy drink
The Roman Empire ensured soldiers were hydrated with a mix of sour wine, vinegar and herbs called posca, an acidic, slightly tart drink (sound familiar?). It was made by watering down the wine and adding herbs and spices such as coriander seeds. As such, it was full of antioxidants and vitamin C. The herbs had health benefits, and because it was quite acid, it killed all the bacteria in the water, which was often not otherwise safe to drink.
While not fermented, it has characteristics in common with switchel, verjuice, and apple cider vinegar.
Writing in Quartz, author Gwynn Guilford terms it the ‘Gatorade of the ancients’ and offers a recipe for anyone curious to learn what it tasted like:
- 1.5 cups of red wine vinegar
- 0.5 cups of honey
- 1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seed
- 4 cups of water
Simply boil the honey and spices and let it cool before combining with the water and wine.
As we approach Easter, it’s worth remembering that posca had a role in the crucifixion. Guilford notes:
Aside from slaking Roman thirst, posca’s other main claim to fame arises from its controversial cameo in the Bible. As Jesus Christ was suffering crucifixion—or possibly just before, at Golgotha—Roman soldiers offered him sips of the stuff from a sponge held aloft with a reed, according to Matthew 27:48. Depending on the interpretation, they did this either to help lessen his anguish or to needle him. Whatever the case, Jesus wasn’t having it. After tasting the posca, Christ refused to drink it and died.