Partridge's Hippocras

Hippocras is made by sweetening and spicing wine. This recipe is based on "To Make White Ipocras" from John Partridge's The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin (1594). It is very easy to make and has been very popular amongst SCA drinkers.


Recipe

For each litre of wine:

1 L wine (see below)
1/2 c sugar
5 cloves
2-3 cinnamon sticks, crushed
15g ginger root, sliced
5 peppercorns, crushed

Dissolve the sugar in the wine, the add all of the spices. Leave the mixture to soak overnight, then strain out the spices and bottle.

The hippocras can be drank immediately but will keep for at least several months.


On Wine

Hippocras can be made from either red or white wine. The title of Partridge's recipe suggests that this recipe is intended for white wine though I have found that it works well with both.

I use cheap commercial wine (in Australia, "cask wine") as the base. Though I haven't tried it, I imagine that using expensive wine is a waste of good wine since the spices will dominate. Some drinkers have suggested that this recipe is a great way of making something good out of cheap wine.

I once tried making my own wine after a recipe in Elijah Bemiss' The Dyer's Companion (1815), though I haven't tried making hippocras from the result. This recipe simply calls for grapes to pressed, and the juice ("must") strained. The must is placed in a sealed container for two days, then allowed to vent using an airlock for another two days. (If the container is not opened after the first two days, it may explode.) After this, Bemiss claims that it will "prove almost as good as French wine".

This recipe will make white wine; to make red wine you need to leave the grape skins in the must but I don't know if this will work with this recipe. I used black muscat grapes and added yeast artificially. The recipe seems to imply that fermentation is happening and I assume that Bemiss is relying on wild yeasts on the grapes to cause this. I got about 750 millilitres of wine per kilogram of grapes.

I don't know what kind of French wine Bemiss was drinking, but the results I got were surprisingly good even if I'm not planning on opening a winery just yet. But with the cost of the grapes and the labour involved in pressing them, you will most likely want to just buy a cask.