- A cordial made of spiced wine, etc.
- 1882: Spiced wine, sweetened with sugar or honey, perhaps the
original of the modern liqueur, was employed occasionally under the
name of hippocras. — James Edwin Thorold Rogers, A
History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Volume 4, p.
Hypocras (various spellings include ypocras,
hippocras and hipocras) is a drink made from wine
, possibly heated, and mixed
with spices, most notably cinnamon
. Its invention was
traditionally attributed to the Greek physician Hippocrates
(5th century BCE), whose name would have been given to the
concoction. Actually, the drink is first mentioned in texts from
the mid 12th century, and the word is encountered for the first
time two centuries later.
The Romans were already familiar with spiced wines
and drank them often (Pline, Apicius). Since the 12th century, a
spiced wine named "pimen" or "piment" has been mentioned by
Chrétien de Troyes
. During the 13th century, the city of
Montpellier had a reputation for trading spiced wines with England.
The first recipes of spiced wine appeared at the end of the 13th
century (recipes for claret and piment found in the Tractatus
) or at the beginning of the 14th century (recipe for
piment in the Regiment de Sanitat of Arnaldus
de Villa Nova
). The recipes of piment mainly come from
Catalonia or France (Occitan language). Since 1390, the recipes for
piment have been called ipocras or ypocras (Forme of Cury in
England, Ménagier de Paris or Viandier de Taillevent in France),
probably with reference and tribute to Hippocrates.
Apparently, the recipe for hypocras was brought
back to Europe from the Orient, following the crusade
s. The drink became
extremely popular and was regarded as having various medicinal, or
Since the 16th century, the word has been
generally spelled hipocras or hippocras in English and hypocras in
French. We are able to find these recipes until the 19th century.
This wine is made with sugar and spices. Sugar then was considered
to be medicine and the spices varied according to the recipes. The
main spices are : cinnamon
and long pepper
An English text specifies that sugar was uniquely for the lords and
honey was for the people. Since the 17th century, spiced wines, in
France, have been generally prepared with fruits (apples, oranges,
almonds) and musk or ambergris
. In England, in
1723, there was a recipe for red hipocrass containing milk and
brandy. The drink was well liked during medieval and Elizabethan
times. Moreover, doctors prescribed it to aid digestion. It was
served at most banquets all over Europe.
The drink was highly prized during the high and
late Middle Ages
In France, it has been noted as the favorite drink of notorious
baron Gilles de
, who reportedly drank several bottles every day. Later,
XIV of France
was also known to enjoy it. In those times, the
drink was a highly valued present item, like jam
and fruit preserves. Hypocras
fell out of fashion and was forgotten during the 18th
In France, Ypocras it is still produced in the
areas, though in very small quantities. It may be used
either for drinking, when it is served chilled before meals, or it
may appear as an ingredient in sauce
s. We also find it served in
numerous medieval feasts all over Europe.
Medieval sources are extremely imprecise, as is
always the case with cooking recipes
, so there's no one fixed
way to prepare hypocras. Cinnamon and ginger are necessary, but
other spices, and the amount used, are highly variable. The need to
heat the concoction is also subject to debate.
For three quarts/liters of hypocras
- 3 litres of white or red wine
- 180 grams brown sugar, or alternatively, honey
- 3 large soup spoons of honey, or alternatively, some fruit
- 30 grams powdered or grated cinnamon
- 2 large soup spoons fresh grated ginger
- 1 coffee spoon grated nutmeg
- 1 coffee spoon mace
(spice), plus cloves
everything being crushed to powder
- 1 pinch black
-Crush all the spice
s in a mortar, and put it in
a large bowl.
-Moisten the mix with a small amount of
-Add the sugar. (If you use honey, heat it in a
make it liquid.)
-Heat the wine on a very low fire. Do not let it
-Add the spice soup to the hot wine.
Pour the mix into jars and let it rest for a
week, then strain and filter before bottling.
Let the hypocras rest for at least a month before
drinking. Sealed bottles will keep for years, but once opened, the
contents are better drunk within the week.
hippocras in French: hypocras