Alessio Piemontese’s Hippocras

Hippocras is a mulled wine made from wine mixed with sugar and spices. It is found in many medieval cookbooks, featuring a variety of spices; Forme of Cury, Menagier de Paris, and Viandier de Tallievent sport their own different recipes, to name a few.

I chose to redact this recipe because I was already working in this book for my lip balms, and I’d just happened to stumble over it. The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemont, 1558, translated to English from the 1557 French version, which was translated from the original 1555 Italian, is a fascinating set of books. They provide instructions, recipes, and tips and tricks for a variety of pursuits, from medicine to dyeing to metallurgy. It struck me that the author, whose sense of humor is not lost in the formulas of this ‘scientific’ tome, chose to include a recipe for what is likely his favorite hippocras — there are very few recipes for food or drink not intended for medicinal purposes in these books.

Excellent Ipocras. p120/736

“Take anne once of sinamon, of ginger two dragines, melligetta three dragines, cloves twoo deniers, nutmegs, galanga, of eche of them a denier, stampe all put it in a jelly bagge or strainer, then take a pinte of the best redde or white wine  you can gette, or a pinte of good malmesie or other stronge wine, mixe will all togethers, then take a pounde of Suger fined, and hauvng stamped it, putte it into the other wine, and so pouce it upon the straynour, where in you did put the saied wine with the spices, then having taken it out, you muste poure it on againe, so often until it become as cleare as it was before, stirring it sometime in the strayner or bagge: and here note that this is to make but a flagon full. Wherefore, if you will have more, you must take a greater quantitie of the said thinges. And for to make it very excellent, you maie bind a little musk in a fine linnen clothe at the end of the strainer, so that al the substances maie passe over and uppon it, the which by that meane will receive the odour and sent of the same muske.”

Notes:

melligetta = grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta)

I had some trouble with the measurements for this, possibly given that it was translated twice before appearing in English. Ounces and pints were fine enough, deniers (French for ‘penny’) could be found, but dragines still eluded me. So I did what most do and Google’d it, which lead me to the Units of Measurement in France before the French Revolution Wikipedia page. (This chart is really fantastic!)

The Table of Mass Units cites Denis Février’s “Un historique du mètre”: the law of 19 Frimaire An VIII (December 10, 1799). “The kilogramme is equal to 18,827.15 grains. The kilogramme is, in addition, defined as the weight of 1 dm3 of distilled water at 4 degrees centigrade, i.e. at maximum density,” and the table’s calculations are made from that law.

The once is listed as 30.59g, roughly 2 Tbsp – a standard ounce. The denier is listed as 1.275g, or roughly 1/5 tsp. Since the dragine was listed between the two, I assumed it fell somewhere between.

My final spice mixture did not follow these measurements precisely, because I found the cinnamon to be overwhelming. I also excluded musk, because it’s not readily available in my cupboard. 😉

Hippocras Recipe

Spice Blend:

2 Tbsp Cinnamon, powdered
2 tsp Ginger, powdered
3 tsp Grains of Paradise, ground
2 tsp Cloves, powdered
1 tsp Nutmeg, powdered
1 tsp Galangal, powdered

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 cups wine, 3 Tbsp sugar, and 3 tsp spice blend over medium heat, then set aside to cool. (Do not boil!)
  2. Strain at least twice through cheesecloth or linen, until the liquid runs clear.
  3. Serve warm or cold.

Citations

Ruscelli, Girolamo, d. ca. 1565; Ward, William, 1534-1609. The secrets of the reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont : containing excellent remedies against diverse diseases, wounds, and other accidents, with the maner to make distillations, parfumes, confitures, dying, colours, fusions, and meltings. https://archive.org/details/secretsofreveren00rusc

Pimontese, Alessio. 1555; 1682 edition. De’ secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese. Parti quattro. Nuovamente ristampati, e da molti errori ricorretti. Con quattro tavole copiosissime per trovare i rimedi con ogni facilità. https://web.archive.org/web/20070617103524/http://www.abocamuseum.it/bibliothecaantiqua/Book_View.asp?Id_book=76

Table of Mass Units. “Units of measurement in France before the French Revolution.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_measurement_in_France_before_the_French_Revolution

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