Hypocras has been popular from Roman Times clear through the 17th century. This is a simple recipe so the post is fairly short. Enjoy!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
3 Tablespoons ginger
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups red grape juice
2 teaspoon powder douce
4-6 tablespoon sugar, according to taste
container for powder douce
pitcher for hypocras
something to stir with
Make the Powder Douce
Mix grape juice and 2 teaspoon of powder douce, taste
Add sugar until you like it
Serve warm or cold
Full disclosure, I messed this one up in the meal we prepared. Val volunteered to make it using the directions I gave her; I did not give her good directions. This is how I know you do NOT want to make this recipe using the ENTIRE prepared container of Powder Douce. It's......well, it's gross.
Done PROPERLY, you prepare your Powder Douce (or Sweet Powder), which you then keep on hand as it's basically the “Old Bay” of it's time. Put that stuff in everything! Don't actually, but it DOES get used quite often. For this particular recipe we then use -1 TEASPOON- of the powder douce. In case you're wondering what the full load settled into the bottom of our pitcher looks like....
Hypocras is a well-known traditional drink as far back as the Roman Empire. Properly, it's a spiced red wine. But it also tastes great using regular grape juice, and this way everyone can enjoy it! Historically, many of the spices used in this particular mixture were considered medicinal. The drink was used to balance the “humors” in the body.
In the Middle Ages, it was believed that people consisted of 4 “humors,” each one a bodily fluid. It's not clear exactly where this belief started – possibly in Egypt, then made famous by the Greeks and expanded by Muslims. Linguistic elements can still be found in modern Western medicine. The father of medicine, Hippocrates (and from whence hypocras gets it's name) is often believed to be the one who connected the concept of humors to medicine. By observing these fluids linked to each humor, doctors would diagnose and treat a person. Additionally, each fluid has a corresponding quality and temperament. An increase or decrease in a particular fluid will affect or change both your temperament and health.
Looking at the chart below, you can see that blood is associated with the sanguine temperament, and its qualities are hot and moist. If one's humors are balanced, with a sanguine temperament, they may be outgoing and sociable. Unbalanced, however, could lead to a lot of problems. Someone with too much of the blood humor might be overly affectionate; this imbalance could also lead to fever and other health problems.
Now, imagine your party is in a tavern. It's been a long week, and you need to find an adventure to distract you. To your right is a red-faced laughing fellow named Ned; to your left, a clammy crotchety humbug named Walla. Obviously Ned is much healthier. I mean look at the guy, he's having a blast! His red face indicates he is warm, while Walla's pasty sluggishness indicates he's cold. If you want to be Ned, you'll drink something that warms your system and gets that blood flowing!
This brings us back to hypocras. Remember, it's originally a spiced wine. Alcohol is well known to give the sensation of being warmed, but wine is also a popular drink to serve warmed up. Add warm spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, etc., and you've got yourself an express ticket to a sanguine temperament. This is one of the reasons you hear folks say that people didn't drink water back in the day. Water is cold, do YOU want to be phlegmatic? Of course not -- beer and wine it is!
(They did, of course, drink water. These people weren't living on swamp wells, they were much more intelligent then the modern public gives them credit for.)
Hypocras is not that involved, so there you have it. If you're interested in seeing more posts on historic medicines/ailments, let me know. This was an incredibly simplified explanation of Humorism, but it's a start. It can be a fun bit of color to add to a character background or game!
Next Week: Erbowle, or: you win some, you lose some.