Madrone Arts and Science Competition, AS 33
On making a 1615 hippocras
By Lord Frederic Badger
Here I shall present to you my findings on making a most pleasing dessert drink called hippocras. What is an hippocras you ask? Well, a hippocras is, simply put, a sweetened spiced wine drink commonly served in period as part of the dessert course. In Cindy Renfrow invaluable book "A Sip Through Time" she makes mention to the fact that the drink may have been named for Hippocrates. Well, enough chatter, on with the recipe.
In Gervase Markham's book "The English Housewife" which was originally published in 1615 we find a most delightful recipe which I shall present to you thusly.
"Take a gallon of claret or white wine, and put therein four ounces of ginger, an ounce and a half of nutmegs, of cloves one quarter, of sugar four pound; let all this stand together in a pot at least twelve hours, then take it, and put it into a clean bag made for this purpose, so that the wine may come with good leisure from the spices."
Since, luckily for us, the units of measure used in this recipe have not changed much, we can quickly decipher the recipe.
- 1 Gallon Wine
- 4 Oz. Ginger
- 1.5 Oz. Cracked Whole Nutmeg
- .25 Oz. Cracked Whole Cloves
- 4 Pounds Sugar
Now, what type of wine should we use? Claret did not ring a bell, maybe I am not as well versed with my wines as I should be. A quick scan of the grocery isle yielded no claret, so I turned to a document produced by Raulthufr for his Ithra class on Hippocras. In this document, he redacted a different hippocras recipe by Markham that calls for Claret, and he substitutes Burgundy instead. Finding this was much more readily available, I also used this deep dark red wine.
Now for the confusing part of the recipe ".. and put it into a clean bag made for this purpose"To figure this one out, I found a reference in the glossary under the heading of "Hippocras-Bag" which states that it is "a cloth bag used for filtering hypocras and other drinks". So I decided that Markham was trying to say that you were to strain out the spices and let it age a bit. So I poured the wine that I had dissolved the sugar, and spice into the night before into a strainer covered with a clean cloth. All of the spice bits were caught in the cloth, and the hippocras was poured into several glass jars. At that time I tasted it, and it was delicious. The taste is like that of a sweet wine, with a hint of spices crossed with an expensive liqueur. All in all it was a very rewarding venture into history.