Kelton's Hippocras II

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Full Recipe Name
To Make Ipocras
Recipe Source
A Noble Book of Festes Royalle and Cokery, Emprynted without temple barre by Rycharde Pynson, in the yere of our lorde. M.D, (1500) London
John Kelton of Greyhorn
Panel Information
Panel Location: Smoking Rocks Investiture
Panel Date: 2017
Score: 95
Beverage Information
Period: Renaissance
Division: Division 5: Liqueurs, Cordials and Medicinal Brews, Distillation (if legally permitted)
Origin: English

Recipe and Redaction

"To make Ipocras," facsimile from A Noble Book of Festes Royalle and Cokery (London: 1500)


Take of chosen Cinnamon two ounces, of fine ginger one ounce, of graines half an ounce, bruise them all. Steep them in three or four pints of good odiferous wine, with a pound of sugar for 24 hours. Then put them into a woolen Ipocras bag and so receive the liquor. The readiest and best way is to put the spices with the half pound of sugar and the wine into a stone bottle, or a stone pot stopped close, and after twenty four hours it will be ready, then cast a thin linen cloth, and a piece of a boulter cloth in the mouth, & let so much run through as you will occupy at once, and keep the vessel close, for it will so well keep both the sprite, odour, and vertue of the wine, and also spices.


The redaction was not very difficult since 16th century English is sufficiently close to modern as to make the recipe easily understandable. The challenge of course with any period recipe is being certain of the ingredients, the process and the correct forms of measurement.

The recipe refers to a pound of sugar and half a pound of sugar. I’m not sure why there is a discrepancy in the measurement.

Interestingly the recipe does not call for additional filtering if using an ipocras bag, but only when steeping in a bottle. Since the spices are in a woolen ipocras bag it is probably a sufficient filter. Boulter cloth was a coarser cloth and would be used to strain out the larger pieces while the finer linen would filter the smaller particles.

Measurement and ingredients are those of Elizabethan England (Elizabeth I. b 1553, ruled 1558-1603).


1 750ml bottle is 1.56 pints. 3 pints = 1430ml = 1.9 bottles; 4 pints = 1893 ml = 2.5 bottles

Bruise two ounces of cinnamon, one ounce of ginger, and a half ounce of grains of paradise. Steep the spices and sugar in the wine for 24 hours then strain through a woolen ipocras bag.

An easier way is to steep the spice and sugar in 3 or 4 pints of wine for 24 hours in a closed bottle. To serve, strain only as much as needed through a linen cloth placed over (In) the bottle’s mouth.

I scaled the recipe around a standard 750ml bottle of wine, or about 1.5 pints which is .40% - .52% of the given recipe. Since the recipe uses up to 4 pints with the same amount of spice, I used somewhat less than half of the quantities noted. I used the first method frankly, because it amused me to make an ipocras bag.

Ingredients and Equipment

750ml Le Grand, Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015

8 ozRaw organic cane sugar.4 ozGinger, fresh

.8 oz“True” Cinnamon sticks.2 oz(~6g) Grains of paradise


  • Stone mortar & pestle used to bruise the spices
  • Woolen ipocras bag. A conical cloth filter bag known as a manicum hippocraticum or Hippocratic sleeve. The 5th century BC Greek physician Hippocrates invented this to filter water. On the advice of the fabric merchant, I boiled the wool for 30 minutes to tighten the weave. I hand stitched the filter with cotton thread and used a thin apple tree switch from my yard to hold the mouth open.
  • Linen Cloth
  • Stoneware crock for steeping
  • Stoneware bottle
  • Pewter serving vessel (see illustration of 15th & 16th century vessels below)

A manicum or sleeve of Hippocrates filtering the drink into an hippocras pot,
My hypocras sleeve

Historical Context and Supporting Information

Ypocras or Hippocras possibly (likely) originated s a medicinal drink which evolved into a spiced wine simply to be enjoyed or taken at the end of a meal as a digestive (historic food).

The Latin name was Vinum Hippocraticum – wine of Hippocrates. The spices were filtered out through a bag known to apothecaries as a manicum hippocraticum, or sleeve of Hippocrates; thus the name of the beverage. Hippocrates invented this device in about 500 BC. Its original purpose was to filter water and remove sediment.

Spiced wines were known and enjoyed in ancient Rome and are mentioned by Apicus (900AD) and Pliny the Elder (23-79AD). Apicus discusses them in terms of a beverage to be enjoyed and not as a medicinal. Spiced wines, are also mentioned by the 12th century French poet and writer Chrétien de Troyes, recipes are found in the 13th century Tractatus de Modo (French) & Liber de Coquina(Italian). The 14th century physician Arnaldus de Villa Nova) discusses medicinal spiced wine in his Regiment de Sanitat and they are in the 14th century Catalan cookbook the Sent Sovi as well as the Forme of Cury from England and the French Ménagier de Paris.

Several menus in Le ménagier de paris (1390) end with hippocras and wafers (Hinson) while The Booke of Kervynge (London: 1508), suggests you “serve your soverayne with wafers and Ipocras” (de Worde). [Editor's note: See Appendix for more information and research on wafers to serve with hippocras.]


Cinnamon: In 1518, the Portuguese discovered cinnamon in Ceylon. This was Cinnamomum zeylanicum now referred to as Cinnamomum verum which is “true “cinnamon. Previously the source(s) of cinnamon “true” and cassia were a closely guarded secret of the Arab merchants

Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the Moluccas, and the Malabar Coast of India and Burma. There are several varieties all of which are in the genus Cinnamomum. Cassia is a member of this genus and is found throughout Arabia, Ethiopia, southern and eastern Asia.

Both types, “true” and cassia were known and used in medieval Europe and England. Le Viander de Taillevent (Guillaume Tirel [?], about 1300) seems to use canelle to refer to cassia and bark. A finer cinnamon called “cynamone” which is C. zeylanicum. However, he may also be referring specifically to cassia buds. I decided to use ‘true’ cinnamon because of it gentle mellow flavor. Next, I had to decide if it should be whole, powdered or broken up. Most hippocras recipes, as this one, do not specify. A few refer to bruising all the spices. Le Menagier de Paris (1393) has multiple references to powdered cinnamon in beverages, broths, and other dishes. Others, such as A Booke of Cookrye (1591), Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books (1430), and The Good Huswife’s Jewell (1597), either don’t specify or use both. I decided to use sticks since in my experience powdered cinnamon is far too strong and one cannot “bruise “a powder.

Ginger: Zingiber officinale. Native to India and China it had spread to the Mediterranean by the 1st century AD and was available in England by the 11th century. Ginger was a widely used ingredient found in many food and beverage recipes across Europe and England throughout the Middle-Ages. The question of course is fresh or powdered. References show both forms available. I elected to use fresh since the recipe simply calls for bruising it and has a much nicer, richer flavor.

Grains of Paradise: Amomum melegueta, also graine in French manuscripts, grayne or greyn of Paris in the English and apparently grains in this recipe. Indigenous to West Africa it is a small, red-brown irregular seed in the ginger family with a pungent, peppery flavor. Graines are mentioned in the French poem Roman de la Rose, Romance of the Rose (1230), and are frequently seen in medieval recipes. The Ménagier de Paris (1393) recommends it for improving wine that "smells stale".

The origin of the name is somewhat unclear to me. I have read that it is because of the spice’s rarity or possibly as an early advertising ploy. It was insinuated that the grains in fact came from paradise. Interestingly, the Hebrew term is גרגרי גן העדן, which is grains from the Garden of Eden, and the Chinese name tian-guo gu-li [天國穀粒] meaning grains from the heavenly realm. The name also mirrors the medieval conception of an earthly paradise full of the scent of spices

Sugar: During the Tudor period, (1485 - 1603) sugar, from sugar cane, was imported from the East and West Indies as well as Morocco and Brazil. White and brown sugars are mentioned in recipes and period manuscripts depict sugar as white (see illustration below). It would seem then that I can reasonably use modern cane sugar. However, modern cane sugar is centrifuged and filtered to remove the molasses and leave pure white sugar crystal whereas medieval sugar wasn’t. I decided to use organic white cane sugar. It is not as highly processed and is not as brilliant white as modern table sugar. There are other less refined sugars available, such as turbinado and demerara, but they tend to a darker color

14th century, Dioscurides Tractatus. Note the cone shaped hippocras bag, the shape of vessels compared with photos below, and the relatively light white color of the sugar

Wine, Good Odiferous Wine: By definition, hippocras is spiced, sweetened wine. But what type of wine; red or white? Existing recipes will specify either red or white wine or as this one not say. Le Menagier de Paris (1393) calls for wine from Burgundy with no other details. This recipe specifies “good odiferous wine” which is perhaps an interesting way of referring to a very aromatic bouquet (Garner).

Throughout the Middle Ages, England imported wine from France, Spain, Germany, Crete, Italy, Greece and even the Canary Islands. The bulk of English imports came from France in part, because two of France’s major wine producing regions Burgundy (Bourgogne) and Bordeaux (Gascony) were long under English control.

Medieval wine was normally drunk young, generally within a year of manufacture. Unless properly stored, wine does not age well and will turn sour or to vinegar inside of a year. The ability to age wines did not occur until invention of glass bottles and corks many years later. In fact, many medieval household manuals discuss salvaging wine that has gone bad.

So, we will use a relatively young French wine from Gascony, Burgundy or Bordeaux. The final question then is what grapes were available? The Pinot Noir grape, primarily grown in the Burgundy region was apparently known to the Romans in the 1st century. The Gamay (famous for Beaujolais nouveau) was certainly known to the medieval world. Indeed, some would say it has a notorious and disreputable reputation. With his famous edict of 31 July 1396, Duke Philip the Bold (Duc de Bourgogne) outlawed the planting of the Gamay grape in Burgundy. He apparently did not care much for it referring to the wine's "very great and terrible bitterness" while the vine was an "evil and disloyal plant." And so, Duke Philip ordered it "extirpated, destroyed and reduced to nothing." For good measure in 1455, Philippe the Good issued another edict against Gamay. The growers ripped out their Gamay vines and soon the vast majority of the region was planted with Pinot Noir. Fortunately, Gamay continued to be planted in the south of his territory and Lyon.

I selected Le Grand, Pinot Noir 2015, the youngest Pinot Noir I could find. Chateau Limoux is in Southern France as is Bordeaux.

Weights and Measures:

Gallon: Prior to the adoption of the British Imperial System of weights and measures in 1824, the English used the Royal system. Although various standards were established over the centuries, it remained relatively stable. The 10th-century Saxon king Edgar the Peaceable kept a royal bushel measure and quite possibly others standards in the late 15th century, King Henry VII reaffirmed the customary Winchester standards for capacity and length and distributed royal standards (physical “standards” of the approved units) throughout the realm. This process was repeated about a century later by Queen Elizabeth I. Interestingly the U.S. gallon is equal in size to the old English Wine Gallon. Therefore and quite conveniently, the gallon of wine in our recipe is one modern U.S. gallon.

Ounces, avoirdupois: The grain was the fundamental unit of weight and is the same in all English systems of weight. One grain is the weight of one barley corn or 0.0648 grams.

The pound avoirdupois (453.59 grams, 7000 grains) originated sometime in the late 13th century and was one of several “pounds” in use. The city of Winchester has a full set of Avoirdupois weights dating to the reign of Edward III (b1312-r1327-1377).

The avoirdupois system (16 ounces of 437.5 gr) was the most commonly used commercial measure in England. Other systems of weights were used for needs that were more specialized. The Troy system (12 ounces of 480 grains) was for precious metals and pharmaceuticals, and the Tower (12 ounces of 450gr) for coinage. There was also a London system (15 Troy ounces) but I am not certain what it was used for.

A note on the manuscript:

“In 1500 printer Richard Pyson, a native of France and later a naturalized Englishman, issued from "without" Temple Bar, London, a book entitled This is the boke of Cokery. It is the earliest cookbook printed in the English language, the work is known from a single surviving copy in the library of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, England.”

Temple Bar was the principal ceremonial entrance to the City of London. I presume that “without” indicates it was not published within the city.


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Appendix: On Wafers to Serve with Hippocras


By John Kelton of Greyhorn

Oct 2017

Definition: Wafer, late 14c., “thin cake of paste, generally disc shaped.” From Anglo-French wafre, old North French waufre “honeycomb, wafer” (Old French gaufre, “wafer, waffle”) probable from Frankish wafel or another Germanic source (compare Flemish wafer, altered from Middle Dutch wafel “honeycomb.” In the 1550s the term was applied to the bread of the Eucharist (wafer)


Wafers are a very thin, crisp, sweetened biscuit, which originated as the obelios of ancient Greece. Obelios were flat cakes cooked between two metal plates (Smith, Wordola). The French called them oublies either from the Greek obelios or from the Latin oblata, meaning offering or gift (Oblata, Quinizio pg 156).

Throughout the Middle Ages, and well into the Renaissance (and modern times) wafers, or oublies were commonly eaten by all segments of society, from peasants to royalty. Chaucer’s Pardoner mentions waferers (wafer makers or vendors) in his tale, as does Langland in Piers the Ploughman.

Wafers were often associated with religious festivals and saints' days. They were frequently sold by street vendors (called waferers in England and gaufriers in France) outside of churches. Wafers were an important part of the issue de table ("exiting the table"), a semi-religious ritual linked with the final grace and washing of hands at the end of a meal. Overtime, they became a common component of the desert course and were frequently served with hippocras (Myers). Menus in the Treatise of Walter of Bibbesworth (1285) end with "plenty of wafers" (oubleie a fuissun ) several in Le ménagier de paris (1390) end with hippocras and wafers while The Booke of Kervynge (1508), suggests you “serve your soverayne with wafers and ipocras” (de Worde).

Wafering Iron, ca.1481. Italy, Victoria and Albert Museum Museum Number M.443-1924.

Here is an example recipe from the early 17th century

To make the best Wafers, take the finest wheat-flowers you can get, and mix it with Cream, the yelks of Eggs, Rose-water, Sugar, and Cinamon, till it be a little thicker than Pancake-batter, and then warming your Wafter Irons on a charcoal-fire, anoint them first with sweet Butter, and than lay on your batter, and press it, and bake it white or brown at your pleasure.

Gervase Markham. The English Housewife, 1615. Michael R. Best (ed.)

Bosch, Hieronymus: Fastnachtsdienstag, 1567. Note grill and waffle irons


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