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Ypocras or Hippocras

Ypocras or Hippocras was a spiced wine taken at the end of a meal as a digestive. The spices were filtered through a jelly bag known to apothecaries as a manicum hippocraticum - the sleeve of Hippocrates. This piece of apparatus gave the drink its name

A modern transciption

Wine 3 gallons
Cinnamon 8 oz
Ginger 2 oz
Nutmegs and Cloves 1 oz
Sugar 3 lbs
Graines 2 oz

for 2 gallons
Cinnamon 4 oz
Ginger 1 oz
Nutmegs and Cloves ½ oz
Sugar 2 lbs
Graines I oz

for 1 gallon
Cinnamon 2 oz
Ginger ½ oz
Nutmegs and
Cloves dram 1½
Sugar 1 lb
Graines ½ oz

A single manicum or sleeve of Hippocrates filtering the drink into a hippocras pot used for serving.

Turnsole, the botanical source of the mauve coloured rags used for colouring hippocras and jellies. To find out more about turnsole and other hippocras spices click the picture. From John Parkinson, Theatrum Botanicum (London: 1640)

Above As well as having alleged digestive effects, the 'hot' spices in hippocras were thought to 'provoke venery'. The hippocras in the covered wine cup is served here with other 'provocative' sweetmeats, including quince marmalade struck with Spanish comfits, which contained musk. The white roots on the right are the popular aphrodisiacal candied eryngo

For Hippocras Gyle

Cinnamon one ounce, Ginger half an ounce, grains of paradise 2 drams, Long-pepper, Cloves, Coriander-seeds, Calamus, Nutmegs, Caraway seeds 2 drams, Limons, Rose water, Bay-leaves and Rosemary.

Another for the same

Cinnamon 3 ounces, Carpobalsamum 2 ounces,Cardamum and Cubebs, Gallingal half an ounce,Gingiberis one ounce, Grana Paradisi 3 pennyworth.

Both from The Art and Mystery of Vintners and Wine Coopers (London: 1698)

Long Pepper from John Parkinson, Theatrum Botanicum (London: 1640). Click the image to find out more.

The white hippocras in the Venetian drinking glass in this photograph is served with a variety of sweetmeats or 'banquetting stuffes'. The wafers and comfits were the original accompaniments to the drink in the context of the medieval void. During the sixteenth century these were augmented by a vast range of new sugar-based luxury foods. Below is an early sixteenth century recipe for making hippocras. In the left column is a modern English transcription of the recipe. Note that 'graines' refer to grains of paradise..

Above: Recipes for Hippocras from a manuscript c.1530. Add.Mss. 36542 f.2a. Reproduced by permission of the British Library.

Above: Some of the more unusual ingredients used in ' hippocras gyle', the spice mixture which was infused in the wine to make this ancient drink. They are galingale, grains of paradise, cubebs and long pepper. To find out which is which, hold your cursor over the spice. Click the image to find out more about all the spices used for flavouring hippocras. Use your browser's back button to return to this page.

Galingale - click more to find out about hippocras spices Long Pepper - click to find out more about hippocras spices Grains of Paradise - click to find out more about hippocras spices Cubebs or tailed pepper - click to find out more

One of the rarest spices used in the production of hippocras was carpobalsamum, the aromatic flower buds of the Balsam of Judea Tree. In the eighteenth century a grove of the trees grew in the gardens belonging to the Sultan of Cairo.They were guarded night and day by armed janissaries to protect both the valuable balsam and the flowerbuds from thieves. The illustration is from Pierre Pomet, A Compleat History of Drugges (London: 1712 ). Opposite are two late seventeenth century recipes for hippocras gyle, one of which contains carpobalsamum. Musk seeds, another Egyptian spice, were also used to scent hippocras, though the most popular perfuming ingredients for the beverage were the animal products musk and ambergris. Scented hippocras was served with the bridecakes at Tudor weddings.

Click the recipe to find out more

A hippocras recipe from A Noble Book of Festes Royalle and Cokery (London: 1500).

Click here, or on the recipe above to find out more about hippocras and its history. Use your browser's back button to return to this page.

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