At the instigation of a friend of mine I recently tried making something called posca (or, perhaps more accurately, something similar to something called posca). Posca was a traditional Roman drink composed mostly of watered down sour wine, often flavored with herbs or spices and sweetened. It was, in effect, the equivalent of lemonade only with vinegar instead of lemon juice. At this point I imagine whoever is reading this may have a slightly skeptical look on his or her face, but this look is not entirely warranted. In fact, having made something roughly equivalent I can assure you this is very tasty.
The real trick here is to track down as nice a vinegar as possible. After all, you’ll be drinking it. I used Sadaf brand vinegar which I purchased at the local middle eastern grocery store mostly because it’s the normal brand that I use in cooking. You can use any brand and probably any sort of vinegar in doing this, though I prefer cider or red wine vinegar. What is essential is that it is not distilled or quickly brewed: you want the subtle complex sourness that the longer process creates rather than the overpowering smell of acetic acid that you get otherwise. Neither of the vinegars that I used in trying out variations on this smelled the slightest bit like distilled vinegar.
The easiest thing to do is to make a concentrate of sweetened vinegar. Unlike lemon juice vinegar doesn’t lose flavor over time so you can do this in large quantity ahead of time and just leave it in the fridge. I like a ratio of around three cups of vinegar to one cup of sugar – in the pictured version I’ve mixed brown and white sugar which is why it’s darker, but this was only because of necessity and not taste. Heat the vinegar and dissolve the sugar in it as if you were making a simple syrup. Then add whatever spices you want. Coriander is especially nice (essential, really, for what I’m going to suggest), but I’ve also put anise seed and a little bit of fresh nutmeg in as well to good effect. Then bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two before turning off the heat and letting it steep for a bit. When it is cool enough to handle strain it and pour into a jar or bottle for safekeeping.
At this point if you want to make posca all you need to do is pour an ounce or two of the vinegar mixture into a tall glass and fill the rest of the way with water. You can use cold water, and add ice if you like. I find that unlike lemonade and most other drinks I actually find posca more refreshing when it’s sitting around room temperature, though, so it’s as least worth trying this.
This is a little boring, though, and as suggested in the title my first instinct was to go ahead and add gin to the drink. Luckily this works out pretty well: remember, one of the main flavors in the mixture is coriander, which is also a common botanical used in gins. It could probably be made more complex with the addition of a bitters (I have a bitters made with Rue that complements the fruitiness of the vinegar nicely, as it turns out). But honestly it’s pretty tasty as it is and adding a recipe for bitters to this post would be recommending and unreasonable amount of work when it comes to trying things out. Since the effect overall of adding gin is to make the drink a watered down and mildly sweetened gin with some vinegar mixed in there I’ve called it a vinegared sling. (It was easier than inventing a fancy name, at any rate.)
This is as much of a recipe as it makes sense to give for something as simple as this. But don’t be fooled: it really is delicious. As a side note I’ll add that the proportions here are entirely speculative. What actually tastes best will depend pretty substantially on what sort of vinegar you use, and how strong it is. So start with roughly equal quantities and then just experiment around until you get a nice balance.
1 1/2 oz Posca concentrate
1 1/2 oz Gin
Pour into tall glass, fill with flat water.
3 Cups high quality vinegar
1 Cup white sugar
– or –
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
– or –
equivalent quantity of honey
Add sugar to vinegar and heat to dissolve. Add
Coriander seed, other spices to taste.
Bring to a boil until everything is neatly dissolved and smells fragrant. Take off heat and let cool. Strain and bottle.