The drink that powered the Roman Empire


Posca, the Roman vinegar-based wonder-drink, is a bit of a mystery, because as much as people keep mentioning it, it is oddly absent from ancient literature. Posca appears in books and articles, being sipped by soldiers and passed around by pals, yet we don’t even have a recipe for it!

A guess at a recipe.

Ever-so-simple Soldier’s Posca

All the sources say is that soldiers drank a mixture of vinegar and water, so that’s going to be our starting point. Nothing fancy here.


  • 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 250ml Water [A little more than one cup. No need for precision]
  • Methods

    Mix and drink!


    If you want to replicate that ‘stuck-in-the-freezing-cold-north-of-England’ feeling, or fancy something a bit more refreshing, use chilled water.

Two more variants follow, one with honey, the other with honey and coriander.

Vinegar and water sounds quite horrific if we’re being honest, but my oh my is it good! First up was Soldier’s Posca, undoubtedly the most ‘realistic’ version of the drink. No matter what you add to it, posca is always going to smell strongly of vinegar – this makes taking that first sip difficult. Struggle through the smell and you have a very refreshing drink with a bit of a tangy taste. The closest comparison I can think of is lemon water, or lime cordial.

I tried this tonight. I am not going to say “oh my is it good”, but it was not bad, and I did not find that first hit of vinegar quite so overwhelming. I made just the simple “Soldier’s Posca,” since I do not like sweet drinks — I lost my sweet tooth in grad school about 40 years ago. I might try it with coriander but no honey.

Will I do it again? Probably. Here close to the Mississippi our local tap water is excellent, but when next I am faced with well water I will remember this. Much cheaper than bottled water. Seems quite appropriate for primitive camping.

This is the drink that was given to Jesus on the cross, usually translated into English as “vinegar” or “sour wine.” Some people say the soldiers were humiliating him once more by giving him this when he asked for a drink. They were not. They were giving him their standard drink that had taken them around the Empire. It was an act of kindness, and I now have some experience to back that up.

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