September 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm (vegan living) ()

3930562108_f07c8dec17Hippocras was a spiced wine drink consumed frequently in Stuart-era England. Spiced wines aren’t so common today, but in, you know, days of yore and stuff, spiced wines were considered both delicious and medicinal. Alcohol on the whole was more widely consumed on a daily basis simply because water supplies were often impure and water had no nutritive value, and so people added interest to their daily alcoholic drinks by adding other ingredients. Ale could be combined with apple pulp, sweetening agents, and spices to make a popular beverage called lamb’s wool, and sugar and spice were added to wine to make hippocras (you can tell it was supposed to be healthy due to the name referencing Hippocrates).

To kick off VeganMoFo I am kind of cheating– this recipe was already vegan, after all– but hey, it is cool to make things from the past. Here’s the recipe I used (pared down, since I didn’t want a gallon of this stuff), from Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife, published in 1615:

To make hippocras: Take a gallon of claret of white wine, and put therein four ounces of ginger, an ounce and a half of nutmegs, of cloves one quarter, of sugar four pound; let all this stand together in a pot at least twelve hours, then take it, and put it into a clean bag made for the purpose, so that the wine may come with good leisure from the spices.

OK. Well, thankfully, my trusty book Life in Stuart England did the math on pairing down this recipe to be more in line with what would go into one bottle of wine. Here’s my lineup:

hippocras prep

Sugar, wine verified vegan by Barnivore, mortar and pestle for grinding cloves, nutmegs to be ground by an oh-so-Stuart-era microplane grater (not pictured) ginger on the cutting board, and a big old glass jar (in lieu of a “pot”). I prepped everything and then let it sit for twelve hours, then strained it with a mesh strainer covered with a clean napkin, in lieu of a “bag made for the purpose” or whatever.


I asked my friends (pictured here, clockwise: my friend Raechel, my husband John, Raech’s husband Jesse) to be taste testers and tell me if they had an ailment that might be cured by this medicine we were drinking.

about to drink

Raechel said she had allergies, John has a bad back, and Jesse claims to suffer from not enough eyelashes, or possibly insanity. My brave patients try their medicine:


Mmm! Ambivalent faces all around. The taste was described as “alcoholic Kool-Aid” and “huh.” Universally we decided it would be better hot, but if I’m making hot spiced wine I’d rather channel my efforts into making Smoking Bishop, a vastly superior beverage all around. None of my patients seemed to think the hippocras cured their ailments, but they did seem to think it was highly effective at getting them drunk, especially when paired with gin and tonics in Raech’s case, beer in Jesse’s, and absinthe in John’s. So maybe they weren’t the most reliable test subjects. Oh well! It was an experiment, fun to make, and easily disposed of down the drain where it belonged. Take that, Stuart-Era England!

And, if you are a vegan blogger is is a fact universally acknowledged that you must include pictures of your animals looking cute, here, for your edification, are my beasts:

Tubby Mc Mungus aka Telemachos aka Lemmy:

tubby mc mungus

Me: What do you have to say about your new internet stardom, Lemmy? Will you be the next Maru?

Lemmy: Pie?

And my amazing, spoiled and beloved friend of eleven years, Penelope aka The Pod:

the pod

Me: Penelope, what do YOU think about internet stardom?

The Pod: zzzzzzzz

Well! Cats. And hippocras. Wish me better luck on my next experiment: Pickles!



  1. jenitreehugger said,

    Oooh great first Mofo! Spices and wine are an awesome combination and I love the sound of this Hippocras (never heard of it before)

    Tubby Mc Mungus and Penelope are just adorable!
    Happy Mofo’ing.

  2. Gina said,

    OOOOH, yay for Smoking Loon! I’ve been drinking that stuff for years. Here I was, being a good steward of the planet, when all I thought I was doing was getting drunk! Rah!

  3. John said,

    Yes, a worthy experiment, but in the end the Smoking Loon mixed with a corkscrew, an open mouth, and gravity would probably have been tastier. The weather is turning cold, though, so if we can find some vegan port maybe we’ll make Smoking Bishop!

  4. brad said,

    If there’s one thing I like, it’s strange beverages. I’ll give it a shot, but I’m looking forward to Smoking the Bishop.

    • molly said,

      Smoking Bishop is awesome. At Christmastime John makes it and reads aloud Dickens’ “reading version” of A Christmas Carol, the one he used to perform for orphans and stuff back in the day. It will lay you out with a headache the next day if you’re not super-careful, though, nothing like acid and sugar added to port and wine, and then drunk hot, to really get your body in a state.

  5. Holly Hoffman said,

    Leave it to you to actually make something I read about all the time in my British monarchy historical biographies. Make something from Jane Austen next! (Now imagining Lizzy Bennet reimagined as a vegan… this could provide hours of fun.)

    • molly said,

      You should check out “Jane Austen and Food” by Maggie Lane, it is super-informative and engagingly written! There’s a bunch of stuff in there about old-timey foods, like whipt syllabub and white soup, that are mentioned in the books, as well as housekeeping details about the books themselves. I’m not into a ton of the “Jane Austen and. . . ” books out there but this one is really neat and gives you a different perspective on the novels. Unfortunately I don’t think there are recipes in it. . . but I’ll see what I can do!

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