Wednesday, February 10, 2010


"This drink is a happy and lovely drink for old people - especially in winter. It warms the cold stomach and is good for all cold diseases of the heart and the sinews. Young people should not drink it because of its heat," wrote the physician Henrik Smith in his herbal book in 1546 about a drink called Hypokras, a drink which was probably named after the Greek physician Hippokrates (ab. 460-377 B.B.), who supposedly delivered the recipe: Red wine added fine oriental spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, etc. These ingredients were of a warm nature according to the principles of the Greek medicine.

A similar drink was named Klaret (the clear drink), instead of red wine was used white wine sweetened with honey and added spices almost like in the Hypokras, but often also added the costy saffron.This gave the drink a fine yellow colour and a special scent and aroma. Those two drinks Hypokras and Klaret are described in English and German medical books from the 1300s, and they emerged in similar Danish works, which were strongly influenced and often copied from foreign works.

From a period in the late Middle Ages were pharmacies in Denmark, where people could buy ingredienses for medicaments, also the imported spices. Those expensive spices were reserved the upper class; poor people could not afford such costy herbs, but the physician Henrik Smith had not forgotten common folks in his medical book. Instead of oriental spices he recommended Danish herbs like dill, caraway, coriander, fennel and parsley - the monks had those herbs in their herb-gardens. The seeds had to be pounded, beer or mead should be added, the portion should draw for one day, then sieved out, and the drink was ready for use - a kind of of poor man's Hypokras. But although the poor man could not afford to buy the books with the recipes, the parish priests and the monks have probably passed on their advice and instructions.

Since Henrik Smith calls it a happy and lovely drink, it might indicate that it was not only enjoyed beause of its healing qualities. In the 1500s and 1600s Hypokras and Klaret became common social drinks - very popular for a period, until new drinking habits removed the old ones.

A recipe from Skalk nr. 2, 1997:
2 x whole cinnamon
15 x whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon sliced nutmeg
1 teaspoon sliced ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom-seed
60 g dark sugar
1 liter red wine.

Pound cinnamon and cloves in a morter, put all spices and the dark sugar in a jug and pour over the wine. Cover the mixture and let it stand for one day and night, sieve it through a cotton/linen bag into a bottle. Let the drink be for one day before use.

Source: Bente Leed, Hypokras: SKALK, Archaeological Magazine, nr. 2, 1997.


Anonymous said...

Thyra: Such an interesting post about Hypokras. I think it would be a lovely drink.

Thyra said...

Jack! Maybe you should make it for Christmas! `:)