Period Hypocras

by Master Phelim "Pug" Gervase

Hypocras, by any of its many different spellings, is a beverage made of wine and a mixture of spices that is named after Hippocrates. Hypocras has been served throughout the centuries for both medicinal and enjoyment value by many different European cultures. The types of hypocras and the spices and other ingredients used are as varied as the cultures and time periods.

While one of its purposes - depending on the ingredients - is to be medicinal, towards the end of the SCA period hypocras was primarily used during the issue de table, which is the finality of the meal and departure from the table. This generally consisted of things like cheese, candied fruits, light cakes, wafers and hypocras - or a sweet wine during summer since hypocras was "out of season".[1] These items were thought to help close the stomach and start the process of digestion.[2]

Just what does hypocras have to include? The only required ingredient is wine. Some common additives are cinnamon, pepper, sugar, cream, ginger, anise, cloves, etc. Basically anything that you think would make for a good combination with the wine you are using for a base.

The great thing about hypocras is that the equipment and experience needed to make them is minimal. They are simply an infusion of spices and herbs into a wine. This means that if you have the ingredients and a few bowls and measuring spoons, you can make almost all of them.


The following recipes are a small sampling of Hypocras from different recipe sources.

They are listed in approximate date of their time period. I have tried to make sure that there are no mistakes in these recipes, but there is always a possibility.

As you will notice, some of these recipes come with their own interpretation of the spices and measure of the recipe and some do not. I would recommend using these recipes as starting points and playing with the spice mixtures to please your palate.

Hippocras - c. 1375
from Sip Through Time
page 235

8 ounces sugar
1 quart wine
½ ouce spice mixture

Spice Mixture

4 ounces cinnamon
1 ounce Mecca ginger
1/12 ounce nutmeg
1 ounce grains of paradise
2 ounces cassia flowers (or cassia flour?)
1/12 ounce galingale

Take four ounces of very fine cinnamon, 2 ounces of fine cassia flowers, an ounce of selected Mecca ginger, an ounce of grains of paradise, and a sixth [of an ounce] of nutmeg and galingale combined. Crush them all together. Take a good half ounce of this powder and eight ouncs of sugar [(which thus makes Sweet Powder)], and mix it with a quart of wine.

(From Le Viandier de Taillevent, c. 1375, tr. By J. Prescott, 1989, p. 68.)

To make hippocras - c. 1386
from To the King's Taste
page 122


Pur fait Ypocras Treys unces de canell et iij unces de gyngener, spykenard de spayn le pays dun denerer, garyngale, clowes, gylofre, pocurer long, noiez mugadez, maziozame, cardomonii de chescun j quarter douce, garyne & de paradys, floer de queynel, de chescun di unce. De toutes fait powdor, & c.


Take three ounces each of cinnamon and ginger and take spikenard of Spain the size of a small coin. Take one quarter of an ounce each of galingale, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom. Take an ounce of grains of paradise and of powdered cinnamon and make powders of all.

Hippocras powder - c. 1393
from A Medieval Home Companion
page 126

To make hippocras powder, take a quarter of a pound of very fine cinnamon, chosen by biting it; an eighth of a pound of cinnamon powder; one ounce of choice, fine, white Mecca ginger; one ounce of grains of paradise; a sixth part of nutmeg and galingale combined; and beat them all together. When you want to make hippocras, take an ample half ounce of this powder and mix it with a half pound of sugar and a quarte of wine, Paris measure. Note that the mixture of powder and sugar is called "duke's powder."

To make a quarte or a quarteron of hippocras by the measure of Beziers, Carcassonne, or Montpellier, take five drames of fine, clean cinnamon; three drames of pared choice white ginger; a drame and a quarter altogether of cloves, grains of paradise, mace, galingale, nutmeg, spikenard – more of the first and less of each of the others, in descending order. Make a powder of the mix with it a pound and an eighth, by the heavy weight, of rock sugar ground and mixed with the other spices. Put sugar in a large dish and melt it in wine on the fire, mixing in the powder. Then put the mixture in the straining bag and strain it until it returns to clear red. Note that the flavor of sugar and cinnamon ought to predominate.

White Ipocras - c. 1594
from A Sip Through Time
page 240

1 gallon of wine
1 lb. of sugar
1 oz. cinnamon sticks
2 oz. ginger root
20 whole cloves
20 peppercorns

Take a gallon of wine, an ounce of Synamon, two ounces of Ginger, one pound of Sugar, twentie Cloves bruised, and twentie cornes of pepper big beaten, let all of these soake together one night, and then let it run through a bag, and it will be good Ipocras.

(From The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin, by John Patridge, 1594. A modernized version of this recipe can be found in Lorwin, pp. 409-410.)

To make hippocras - c. 1615
from The English Housewife
Chapter II paragraph 150 - page 111

To make hippocras, take a pottle of wine, two ounces of good cinnamon, half an ouce of ginger, nine cloves, and six pepper corns, and a nutmeg, and bruise them and put them into the wine with some rosemary flowers, and so let them steep all night, and then put in sugar a pound at least; and when it is well settled, let it run through a woolen bag made for that purpose: thus if your wine be claret, the hippocras will be red; if white, then of that colour also.

To make hippocras - c. 1615
from The English Housewife
Chapter II paragraph 182 - page 118

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 for at least twelve hours, then take it, and put it into a clean bag made for the purpose, so that the wine may come with good leisure from the spices.

To make hippocras
from To the King's Taste
pages 122 - 123

Have three pewter basins for the liquid and three straining bags, one for each, hanging inside of them from a perch. Pare ginger or beat it into a powder and be sure to use the columbine variety. Your cinnamon sticks should be thin, brittle, and fair in color. Use grains of paradise, sugar, red wine, long pepper and turnsole for coloring. Put each spice into a separate bladder and hang these bags from the perch so that they don't touch each other. Place two or three gallons of wine into each of the basins. Allow the wine to absorb the flavors from the spice pouches. Then strain the liquid through the long cloth bag called a Hippocrate's sleeve. Taste it. If there is too much ginger, add cinnamon, and vice versa. After you have made hippocras, you can use the spice dregs in the kitchen.

In the words of John Russell, whom this recipe is taken from:

"Now, good son, thine ypocras is made parfite and welle y wold [I know]. Than ye put it in staunche and a clene vesselle, and the mouthe ther-off y-stopped ever more wisely and felle, and serve hit forth with wafurs bothe in chambur and Celle."

#259 To Make Hyppocris - c. 1550 to 1625
from A Sip Through Time
page 239

3 quarts sweet wine
1 quart sack wine
1 pint whole milk (Promiseland)
4 whole nutmegs
2 lbs. granulated sugar
2 oz. cinnamon sticks
½ oz. ginger root
½ oz. coriander seeds

Take 3 quarts of sweet wine & one quart of swee[t] sack, 2 pound of lofe sugar, 2 ounces of cinnamon, halfe an ouce of ginger, halfe an ounce of corriander seeds, 4 numeggs, beat yr sugar ve[ry] well, but ye others spices must be onely crusht. yn put [in] ye other halfe of ye sugar & a pinte of new milke. stir them [well] together, yn put them in a bagg yt is small at one end, [&] put a whalebone on ye top yt may hang even. when it [is thoreough (?)], bottle it close. it will keep a quarter of a ye[ar].

(From Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, ed. By Karen Hess, 1981. Letters in brackets were reconstructed by the original editor.)

Note: The whalebone serves to hold open the mouth of the hypocras bag. The spices are put into the bag (as we put coffee into a drip coffee pot), and the sweetened wine is poured through the spices to gather their flavor. Items in brackets were reconstructed by the author.

What we did: Break the cinnamon into small pieces. Grate the ginger. Break the coriander and nutmeg. Mixed the wine and spice and 1 pound of sugar. Mix the milk and the other pound of sugar. Mix it all together and let sit for 24 hours and then filter.

To Make Hypocras - c. 1655
from A Sip Through Time
page 240

4 gallons claret wine
1 quart milk
6 lbs. sugar
8 ounces cinnamon sticks
ginger root
whole cloves
whole nutmegs
3 sprigs rosemary

Take four gallons of Claret Wine, eight ounces of Cinnamon, and Oranges, of Ginger, Cloves, and Nutmegs a small quantity, Sugar six pound, three sprigs of Rosemary, bruise all the spices somewhat small, and so put them into the Wine, and keep them close stopped, and often shaked together a day or two, then let it run through a jelly bagge twice or thrice with a quart of new milk.

(From The Queen's Closet Opened, by W.M., Cook to Queen Henrietta Maria, 1655.)

To Make Ipocras With Red Wine - c. 1660
from A Sip Through Time
page 240

1 gallon wine
2 quarts cream
3 lbs. sugar
20 peppercorns
3 ounces cinnamon sticks
2 ounces ginger root
1 ounce whole nutmegs
1 ounce mace blades
¼ ounce whole cloves

Take a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinamon, two ounces of slic't ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream.

(From The Accomplisht Cook, by Robert May, 1660.)

When to drink Hypocras

That is actually two questions. The first is when are they ready to be drank, and the second is what type of setting are they best drank at.

Most of these hypocras are ready to drink within 24 hours of when you mix them together. While that may be true, many of those with stronger spices are better if you let them blend for a week or so. This gives the different flavors time to balance out with each other and become a truly enjoyable beverage.

As for what setting, living in Ansteorra most of these are a little heavy for the majority of the year. They are much better in the Yule and Candlemas season, although they can be extended a little bit on each end of the calendar. They should be served chilled or mulled slightly. Those that have cream should definitely be kept refrigerated to help prevent spoiling.


Bayard, Tania. A Medieval Home Companion. HarperPerennial, 1992.
Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife. Edited by Michael R. Best. McGill-Queen's University Press, 1986.
Redon, Odile, Françoise Sabban, & Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen. Translated by Edward Schneider. The University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Renfrow, Cindy. A Sip Through Time. Cindy Renfrow, 1996.
Sass, Lorna F. To The King's Taste. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.

[1] The Medieval Kitchen p 49

[2] The Medieval Kitchen p 11