Posca, made from cheap, watered-down sour wine or vinegar and herbs, was a popular drink among peasants and Roman soldiers. Its acidity killed harmful bacteria, its herbs overcame the bad taste of the local water, and its vitamin C prevented scurvy.
The visitor to Alexandria might drink posca with the idle men in the Rhakotis quarter, the district blighted by poverty, crime, disease, and hopelessness. In The Deadliest Lie, Miriam’s father encounters posca, which was virtually unknown among the upper classes, during his first and only venture into the that quarter:
“I walked past dozens of toothless, potato-faced men, some shambling about, others squatting amid the litter on sun-bleached rocks. Drinking posca from earthen cups, they were throwing knucklebones under a canopy of crisscrossing clotheslines draped with tattered garments.”
Now, to change the subject just a little: In case you’re ready to throw a Miriam bat Isaac party—and I think you are—here’s an easy recipe for posca. Next week I’ll post the perfect dessert for your party.
Combine 1½ cups of vinegar with ½ cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seeds and 4 cups of water. Boil the mixture in a saucepan to dissolve the honey before allowing the mixture to cool to room temperature. After straining out the coriander seeds, it can be served with, of course, a copy of any Miriam bat Isaac novel. Enjoy!