"I'm looking for a recipe for hypocras. It's French red wine and
a blend of spices, mostly ginger." Peter Swanson, location unknown
Hypocras (also spelled "hyppocras") is at the very least a Medieval drink, but more probably, as the name suggests, it dates back in time to pre-Christian or first millennium Greece. I have found recipes for it in English dating back to the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). In more recent times in Colonial America, an almost identical drink was made and called "mulled wine."
Most of the recipes I have found use a finished still red wine as a base and infuse or flavor it. The result is variously called "Hypocras," "Hyppocras," "Ypocrys, or "Mulled Wine." I have only found one recipe that sets out to ferment a wine/mead/metheglin from scratch.
Put all of the spices into a small strainer, with a long handle. Heat the wine gently in a small enamel saucepan, until it begins to steam a little; do not let it boil. Add the sugar and honey, and stir until they are well-dissolved. Place the strainer into the wine; reduce heat and cook gently for several minutes. Remove strainer and set aside; immediately pour wine into mugs and enjoy. The same spices can be reused several times on successive evenings before getting worn out. This is a variant of proper period hypocras, with a few tweaks. The period recipe would usually have been made with ground spices, wrapped in a fine cloth. The period version would also have been served either warm or cool, while this version is reasonably tasty at room temperature but is best when served quite warm on a cool. If cooled, it can be reheated in a microwave oven. The recipe is quite flexible and can be tweaked in many ways. Some ingredients are optional. Galingale, for example, is a relative of ginger and is relatively hard to find. The author recommends using an inexpensive Burgundy or Merlot as the base. [Adapted from Pleyn Delit, by Heiatt and Butler, recipe 127, which in turn is adapted from Forme of Cury, a 14th century cookbook.]
*Grains of Paradise are the pungent, aromatic seeds of a tropical African plant, Aframomum melegueta; also, the seeds of cardamom.
**Ambergris is a waxy, grayish substance formed in the intestines of the sperm whale and found floating at sea or washed ashore. It was used as a fixative in perfumes.
Infuse these ingredients for 24 hours, then dissolve 1 pound of sugar in 1 quart of red wine or cider. Mix 3 or 4 drops of the infusion into the wine or cider. This compound was usually given at marriage festivals, when it was introduced at the commencement of the banquet, served hot. It is said to be of so comforting and generous a nature that the stomach would at once "be put into good temper to enjoy the meats provided." [This is the recipe dating back to the reign of Edward III (1327-1377); cited in Cups & Their Customs, Anonymous, London: John Van Voorst, Publisher, 1863.]
Bruise all spices and place in spice bag (a cotton bag) with half-dozen marbles and tie closed. Sink spice bag in wine under airlock. Taste wine every other day until satisfied with the taste. Remove spice bag and sweeten wine if desired. [Recipe adapted from John French's Art of Distillation, 1651.]
Bring water to a simmer while dissolving into it the honey. Add the zest of the lemons, retaining their juice for later use, and the ginger, mace and cloves. Simmer (but do not boil) for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off any surface scum resulting from the honey. When cool, strain into a secondary fermentation vessel and add tea, lemon juice and yeast nutrient. Stir well, then add activated yeast and fit airlock. Ferment 2 months, rack, top up, and refit airlock. Set aside 3 months and rack again. Stabilize, sweeten to taste and refit airlock. Wait another 3-6 months. If no signs of renewed fermentation, bottle. [Recipe adapted from The On-Line Wine Makers Guide]
My thanks to Peter Swanson, location unknown, for requesting this recipe.