Tag Archives: wine

Hippocras part 2: The recipe

It would be a bit of a stretch to call this post “cooking and the recipe” as I usually subtitle the second parts of my food adventures. This is a ridiculously easy recipe, and unlike either of the other drink based recipes I’ve made previously, there is no cooking involved – it doesn’t even involve heating anything.

To make Ipocras. Cap. xl.

TAke of chosen Cinimon, two ounces, of fyne Gynger one ounce, of Graynes halfe an ounce, bruse them all, & sleepe them in. iii. or. iiii. pyntes of good odiferous wine, with a pound of Sugre by the space of. xxiiii. howres. then put them into an Ipocras Bag of Wollen, and so receaue the liquor. The rediest and best waye is to put the Spices with the halfe pownde of sugre, and the Wine into a stone Bottle, or a stone pot stopped close. and after: xxiiii. howres it wyll bee ready, then cast a thin linnen cloth, or a peece of a boulter cloth on the mouth, & let so much run thorow: as ye wyll occupy at once, and kepe the vessell close, for it will so well keep both the sprite, odour and vertue of the Wine, and also Spices.

Today’s recipe comes from John Partridge’s The treasurie of commodious conceits, & hidden secrets (1573). I shall, as with the beer post, not be giving step by step pictures because it’s so easy.

I am no wine expert, and I don’t really drink red anyway (hippocras was usually, though not always, made with red wine), so I can’t really suggest which would be best. In the interests of authenticity, a French wine would probably be best, since the majority of wine imported in the 16th century would have come from France. Even as someone who prefers white, I have to say that red is much more “odiferous” (i.e. pleasant smelling). On a practical note, if you are planning to make the hippocras in the bottle a screw-cap is better as it won’t leak when you shake it.

I scaled the recipe down somewhat, in fact I quartered it. I discovered that a pint of wine is pretty much a bottle minus a large glass when I measured out what was left in the bottle my husband started drinking last night. So that was rather fortuitous.

The spices are mostly self explanatory, except for one. The “graynes” mentioned are in fact “grains of paradise”, what we know today as cardamom. I absolutely love the taste of cardamom, it makes me think of drinking chai tea at 2am in the Green Fields. But I digress.

As for sugar, there seemed to be conflicting instructions about how much to use, first Partridge stipulates a pound of sugar, and then later refers to half a pound. I went for a whole pounds (well, the scaled down equivalent) which turned out to be far too much, in my opinion.

Not having a stone bottle, I opted to just reuse the glass bottle the wine came in. I imagine you could use one of these instead though, which would look rather nice: http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/30213552/.

After having left it for a day, I tried the hippocras, as did my husband and our friend Ed, who happens to be visiting this weekend. I put a jelly bag over the top of the bottle and tried to pour, but it was reluctant to come out as the spices were blocking the neck, but with a little shaking it came out soon enough. The general consensus was that is was nice, but far too sweet. Ed even compared it to Ribena! The spiciness was pronounced, but not as strong as in mulled wine. If I made it again I think I’d probably scale down the sugar by at least half. Still, it was rather tasty, and would make a good aperitif or, even better, digestif. You could use it anywhere you’d serve port or sherry. It would also be nice in cooking, I think, especially around Christmas time – perhaps used in stewed red cabbage or poached pears.

So, onto the recipe!

Hippocras (makes 1 pint)

1 bottle of red wine (your choice, but as with mulled wine the better the wine the better the hippocras)

3 large cinnamon sticks

About 20 cardamom pods

1/2 ounce fresh ginger

1/4 pound sugar (or less, to taste – this could easily be halved and was too sweet for my tastes, but it’s up to you)

Measure out a pint of the red wine in a measuring jug. You do not need what remains in the bottle, so find some other use for it. Bruise the ginger, break it up as necessary and add it to the bottle. Add the cardamoms and the cinnamon sticks too. Add the sugar to the wine and stir to combine as much as possible. Put the sugary wine back into the bottle, this will be a lot easier if you have a funnel. Put the screw cap on, or use a stopper if it had a cork. Upend it a few times (easier if it’s a screw-cap) to mix the sugar in as much as possible.

Leave the wine for 24 hours, turn it upside down a few times if you remember to help the sugar mix in.

After it’s been sitting for a day or so, open and strain through some muslin, cheesecloth or similar. Enjoy!

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Hippocras

Hippocrates, engraving by Peter Paul Rubens, 1638. Image via Wikipedia.


In this blog, I’m looking drink rather than food, and like the drinks I’ve looked at before, this one is alcoholic. Early modern people drank rather a lot of alcohol, and it wasn’t just reserved for an evening tipple – beer, and especially ale, were regularly drunk throughout the day with meals, even breakfast. Water was generally too unsanitary to drink, and tea and coffee entered the national diet sometime around the mid-to-late 17th century, so for the majority of the early modern period were not widely consumed. By the 18th century tea and coffee were very popular indeed, but heavy drinking had certainly not gone away – just look at the gin crisis.

Anyway, early modern society had what you might call a complex relationship with alcohol, though I suppose the same could be said about many societies, including our own. Drunkenness was a problem much bemoaned by many 16th and 17th century writers, such as James Hart of Northampton who, in his treatise on health and morality Klinike, or the Diet of the Diseased (1633), wrote that “Drunkenness is an excessive and unseasonable powring downe of strong drinke” that was the cause of “mischiefs there insuing to the soule, body, and good”. On the other hand, alcoholic drinks were a key part of the everyday diet, they provided nourishment, and in some cases, they were used as medicine.

This is where hippocras comes in. Also spelled hypocras, ypocras, ipocras (and others I’m sure), this was an ancient drink, popular during medieval times as well, very popular at banquets and for medicinal purposes. Hippocras takes its name from the ancient physician Hippocrates, he of the Hippocratic oath fame, though only indirectly, it is in fact named after the hippocras sleeve. This was an invention of Hippocrates, essentially a bag used to purify water. Presumably this lends its name to hippocras as the drink is made by filtering spiced wine through one of these bags. The medicinal associations of the name, however, were quite fitting given the various uses of the drink. In one 1612 text, Child-birth by Jacques Guillemeau, hippocras is suggested to help “the weake and dainty women” during labour, or alternatively they can “be fed with yelkes of egges, cullis, a tost with wine and sugar”.

The end to a great feast would often involve “wafers and hippocras” being served together. This was either served after the banquet course or was part of it. Banquet courses themselves generally consisted of comfits, sugar-plums and other kinds of sweet foods. Robert May in The Accomplisht Cook (1660) suggests serving wafers and hippocras, along with other banquetting foods, at the end two of his suggested menus:

First set forth mustard and brawn, pottage, beef, mut|ton, stewed pheasant, swan, capon, pig, venison, bake, custard, leach, lombard, blanchmanger, and jelly; for standard venison roste kid, fawn and coney, bustard, stork, crane, peacock with his tail, hearn-shaw, bittern, woodcock, partridge, plover, rabbets, great birds, larks, dowcets, pampuff, white leach, amber-jelly, cream of almonds, curlew, brew, snite, quail, sparrow, martinet, pearch in jelly, petty-pervis, quince bak’t, leach, dewgard, fruter-sage, blandrells, or pippins with carawayes in comfits, wafers, and ipocras…

…and later in another menu…

…Fresh sturgeon, bream, pearch in jelly, a jole of salmon, sturgeon, welks, apples, and pears rosted with sugar can|dy, figs of molisk, raisins, dates capt with minced ginger, wafers, and ipocras.

Medicinal or not, hippocras was a popular drink – but did it taste good? I shall soon be finding out when I try making some! It does involve leaving the wine and spices to infuse for a while though, so I won’t be posting the results right away. I have a feeling this is going to be a good one though, my previous adventures in early modern drinks have been some of the nicest things I’ve cooked. Anyway, thanks for reading, come back for the recipe in a week or so!

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