Mead Lover's Digest #0383 Wed 1 February 1995


Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor



re: Is Hippocras really a mead?/Braggot recipes?/… (Dick Dunn)
Re: Is Hippocras really a mead? (Joyce Miller)
Yeast info request (


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Subject: re: Is Hippocras really a mead?/Braggot recipes?/...
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: 26 Jan 95 23:43:27 MST (Thu) (Gregory Owen) writes about hippocras:
> In response to a thread on recently, I started
> looking for a definition of Hippocras. I've found some references that
> refer to it as a mead, another as a sugared wine sans honey…
[some references compared]
> Finally, the mead.faq by Dick Dunn says "HIPPOCRAS is a spiced
> pyment."
I'm not sure whose words those were in the FAQ, but among mead books I've
checked (Morse, Acton/Duncan, Andrews), there seems to be a consensus that
hippocras is a spiced pyment, and that pyment is either a (grape) wine
with honey added, or the combination of grape juice and honey fermented.
There's always the possibility that the various sources are all based on a
common misunderstanding.

Dictionaries I've checked are either silent on the word or say only that
it's a spiced wine, with no comment on sweetening. Even OED isn't much
help. The name is related to Hippocrates and the use of herbs (and fil-
tering through Hippocrates' sleeve, but that's so odd you've got to read
it for yourself). There's no clear indication that hippocras would or
would not contain honey.

> So what do other mead-lovers think? I'm tempted to trust Gayre
> because his book is well documented to the point of scholastic agony.
> Gayre leads me to believe that pyment or clarre could also spiced or
> unspiced, and that hippocras uses sugar to the exclusion of honey…

Gayre does a good job of verifying that pyment/clarre(e) contain honey, but
a much poorer job of verifying that hippocras does not. I also think that
to the extent we believe there's any ancient historical basis for a drink
like hippocras, we'd have to believe it was made with honey because that
was the household sweetener back then.

However, I think Greg's got a point that calling hippocras a "spiced
pyment" may stretch it too far. After all, pyment can be either wine
sweetened with honey (after it's made) or a grape/honey combination, but
current usage favors the latter, while with hippocras, regardless of what
sweetens it, it's fairly clear that it's a grape wine with herbs, sweetened
after the fact.

> On another subject, I'm thinking of making a small batch of
> braggot. Braggot isn't something well discussed in Papazian, Gayre,
> Bees Lees or Cats Meow — one recipe in each of the latter, I believe.

There's another word game in that one! Is it braggot? or bragot or bragget
or bracket? OED seems to prefer bragget; Digby has a recipe for bragot.
Bracket seems to be a modernized form. Braggot is the old-looking word I
see most often in modern writing about it, but I can't find any etymological
support for it!

Digby's recipe uses "the first running" of an ale (meaning the stronger
wort from first sparging) along with honey (less than would be used in a
normal mead…but remember there's malt already) and spices. I don't think
spices would be essential; Digby's era just seems to use a lot of spices
and herbs.

All the relatively modern sources I've seen indicate that it's a cross
between a mead and an ale, made relatively quickly. Gayre suggests that
it was a transitional style, part of the move from honey to malt as the
base fermentable in northern Europe.

There's certainly not a lot to go on, in fact so little that I wonder if it
wouldn't be better to start trying to define the style anew rather than to
try to resurrect it. (I appreciate the historical interest, and I imagine
that the card-carrying-SCA readers won't like my attitude much! But it's
an interesting angle on brewing with a lot to explore. You can push up to
barleywine strength yet not have an overpowering body or residual sweet-

Dick Dunn -or- raven!rcd Boulder, Colorado USA

…If you plant ice, you're gonna harvest wind.


Subject: Re: Is Hippocras really a mead?
From: (Joyce Miller)
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 1995 11:43:53 -0500

Well, I haven't been following, but from reading period
cookbooks, my take on it is this:

Hippocras is medicine. That's why it's called that. It's sweetened,
spiced wine. Period. It *could* also have been a mead. What it was in
any given place and time probably depended on what materials were
available. The wine itself was probably made with grapes, but as "loaf
sugar" (white) was reserved for the kitchen, I suspect that honey was
probably used in the ferment.

Or was it possible that they didn't fortify the ferment at all? Most early
(pre-15th century) books mention diluting the wine with water at the table.
Was this to cut the alcohol, or to ameliorate the dryness? Hmmm.

Anyway, there are many period recipes for hippocras that simply call for
taking wine, adding sugar and spices, warming it, and serving it forth to
whoever isn't feeling well.

Of course, in a mead competition, the judges expect that the hippocras
entries will be made with grapes, honey, and spices!


  • – Joyce


Subject: Yeast info request
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 95 04:34:00 UTC

After making several Barkshack Ginger Meads with various fruit flavors,

I'm planning a batch of more conventional strawberry mead – 15# honey and
10# IQF strawberries.


One of the things I haven't yet chosen is the yeast for this effort. I'm

looking for something less attenuative than Red Star Champagne; something
that will leave some residual sugar without being sickly sweet. Any


Red Star Epernay 2 is one of the potential choices. Does anyone out there

have any experience with this yeast? How did it work for you? What else
should I consider?


Any suggestions on the recipe? I think it will contain both gypsum and

acid blend, but I haven't decided exactlyu how much.


TIA… …Tom


End of Mead Lover's Digest #383