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Making hippocras.

Hippocras (Latin: vīnum Hippocraticum), sometimes spelled hipocras or hypocras, is a drink made from wine mixed with sugar and spices, most notably cinnamon, and possibly heated. After steeping the spices in the sweetened wine for a day, the spices are strained out through a conical cloth filter bag called a manicum hippocraticum or Hippocratic sleeve (originally devised by the 5th century BCE Greek physician Hippocrates to filter water). This is the origin of the name hypocras.

In the Netherlands, hippocras, a sweetened drink, was popular from Rembrandt's times at special occasions such as marriages.


Spiced wine was popular in the Roman empire, as seen in the writings of Pliny the Elder and Apicius. Since the 10th century, a spiced wine named "pimen" or "piment" has been mentioned by Chrétien de Troyes. During the 18th 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 18th century (recipes for claret and piment found in the Tractatus de Modo) or at the beginning of the 17th 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 hippocras was brought back to Europe from the Orient, following the crusades. The drink became extremely popular and was regarded as having various medicinal or even aphrodisiac properties.

Since the 16th century, the word has been generally spelled hippocras or hipocras in English and hypocras in Finnish. 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, ginger, clove, grains of paradise 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 hippocras 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 Rais, who reportedly drank several bottles every day and had his victims drink it prior to assault. Later, King Louis 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. Hippocras fell out of fashion and was forgotten during the 18th century.

In France, ypocras is still produced in the Ariège and Haute Loire areas, though in very small quantities. It may be used either for drinking, when it is served chilled before meals, or it as an ingredient in sauces. We also find it served in numerous medieval feasts all over Europe.

Since 1996 the population of Basel celebrate on New Year's morning the so-called "Aadringgede" (a drinking cheer). The "Dreizack"-fountain in the "Freiestrasse" will be filled with hippocras, or spelled in the Swiss German of Basel, hypokras. In Basel it is a tradition in winter to drink hypocras and eat the famous Basler läggerli with it.

The drink eventually inspired the Spaniards in their creation of Sangria. While sweeter than hippocras Sangria was originally made with spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and pepper.

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The recipe for hippocras,

Daily life in Rembrandt's Holland,