During winter and, especially the holiday season, it is customary to drink wine infused with spices, such as mulled wine or "hot wine." Spiced wine goes back to Roman times and, during the Middle Ages, the most popular drink of all was Ipocras (or Hipocras). This was a mixture of wine, cinnamon, sugar and ginger. In some recipes nutmeg was also added. Ipocras was taken at the end of a meal as a digestive. That means it was beneficial to the internal plumbing. It was a drink of the highest nobility and it was served to Queen Elizabeth I at her coronation.

It was also a drink that defined your station in life. According to a very old cookbook, Forme of Cury (1390), Ipocras made with sugar is destined for the lords. Ipocras made with honey is for the people. Sugar was a very expensive commodity in those days which only the higher classes could afford it. Luckily, today, those of us in the 99 percent can afford sugar as well as honey. So think of drinking Ipocras as a way to get back at the one percenters. Whichever way you look at it, it makes for a great beverage during these cold, chilly days. Hell, it's a great drink for any season since it can be served at room temperature or slightly chilled. 

The recipe given is by one Ruperto de Nola from his cookbook, Libro de Guisados (Book of Stews), the 1529 edition. Ruperto was cook to King Fernando of Naples.

The Middle Ages is not known for its gastronomy. But this drink seems to have gotten a lot of people through those Dark Ages.


1 1/2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups dry wine
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)

1. Combined all of the ingredients in an enameled or heat-proof glass pot.
2. Bring slowly to a boil.
3. Once it starts boiling, remove from heat. Strain though cheesecloth or a cloth sieve set over a bowl. Serve at room temperature, or slightly cool, in mugs or (if you want to be fancy about it) wine glasses.
    Yield: about 2-3 cups