Hypocras - Medieval Spiced Wine

Philip de Greylonde published on

3 min, 580 words

Hippocras, also known as hipocras, ypocrasse, ypocras, hypocras, hyppocras, ipocras, and ippocras. Hippocras is a beverage made by adding spices and sugar (or honey) to wine. It was a highly popular beverage and there are numerous variations. Although the spices, sugar, and exact proportions varied, hippocras recipes usually included wine, and a mix of spices including cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. It is referenced throughout the late medieval period in numerous cookbooks, some of which I have highlighted here. It is also mentioned as an ingredient in the Viandier of Taillevent.

Historical References

Forme of Cury

Pur fait Ypocras. Treys Unces de canell. Et iij unces de gyngener. spykenard de Spayn le pays dun deneres. garyngale. clowes, gylofre. poivr long, noiez mugadez. maziozame cardemonij de chescun i.qrt douce grayne, de paradys flour de queynel de chescun dimid unce de toutes. soit fait powdour and serve it forth. [@Curry]

Le Menagier De Paris

Original French

Pour faire ung lot de bon ypocras. Prenes une onches de cinamonde nommée longue canelle en pippe, avec unes cloche de gingembre et autant de garingal, bien estampé ensemble, et puis prenez ung livre de bon çuquere: et tout cela broyés ensamble et destrempés avec ung lot du milleur vin de Beaune que pourrés finer et le laissir tremper ungne heure ou deux. Et pus coullés parmy ung chause par plusieurs fois tant qui soit bien cler. [@Menagerie]

English Translation

To make hippocras powder, pound together a quartern of very fine cinnamon, selected by tasting it, half a quartern of choice cassia buds, an ounce of hand-picked, fine white Mecca Ginger, an ounce of grains of paradise, and a sixth of an ounce of nutmeg and galingale together. When you want to make hippocras, take a generous half ounce of this powder and two quarterns of sugar, and mix them together with a quarte of wine as measured in Paris. [@Goodwifes]

Making A Simple Hippocras

For this recipe, I have simplified the ingredients to those that are easily purchased, or that are common in the modern kitchen. Additionally, I have adapted the amounts of spices for the modern palate, and for health and safety reasons (for example, reducing the clove content).

For sanitizing, I use Star San from Five Star Chemicals or Iodophor - however, high-proof neutral spirit diluted to 70% Ethanol will work as well, simply make sure the alcohol touches all surfaces for more than 15 seconds.

Ingredients

  • 3L red wine (I typically use Carlo Rossi Burgundy)

  • 64 (3g) cubebs or black peppercorns

  • 12 (1g) cloves

  • 2.5c sugar (I use a mix of white and piloncillo)

  • 1 tsp fresh-ground nutmeg

  • 2 oz fresh ginger

  • 1.5 oz cinnamon or cassia

Process

A Carlo Rossi bottle contains 4L of wine, for this recipe I use 3L in order to provide room in the bottle for the other ingredients.

  1. Crush the cubebs (black peppercorns work fine) and cloves

  2. Grate, finely grind, or microplane fresh nutmeg until you have 1tsp

  3. Break the cinnamon or cassia into small pieces.

  4. Peel and chop the fresh ginger

  5. Add the sugar to the bottle and shake to mix

  6. Add the remaining spices and shake to mix.

  7. Allow to sit in a cool dark place shaking once or twice a day (I usually let it got 2-3 days) judge by taste when it is ready.

  8. Sanitize a strainer (I use a re-usable coffee filter)

  9. Filter into a sanitized container for serving.