Famous all over Europe in the Middle Ages, ‘sweet and savage’ Hypocras was believed to be good for whatever ailed you. The name comes from Hippocrates, the ancient Greek Father of Medicine—although the first mention of the popular panacea and aphrodisiac only dates from the 14th century.
For centuries it was the favourite digestif for those who could afford it. The famous knight, Count Gaston Fébus of Béarn, attributed his prowess to drinking Hypocras every day.
Recipes varied over time and country. Hypocras contained a high percentage of sugar (which was very expensive in medieval times) and honey, spices (usually ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, and rose petals —all of which were prestigious). Some recipes included even more rarefied ingredients, including amber, mace and long pepper.
Today Hypocras means mulled wine in French, but there’s one last maker, Hypocras in Tarascon-sur-Ariége, which claims to do it the medieval way, and where visitors are welcome.
Images by Dana Facaros, PD