Editors' Picks

Anne Willan's Ypocras (Spiced Red Wine)

February 20, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Mulled wine gets the sangria treatment -- and stops mulling the booze away.

final wine

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Wouldn't it be nice if you could take that mulled wine from your last holiday party or snowy ski weekend and bottle it? And, while we're at it, maybe not cook the alcohol away?

I'm making it sound like a new product a Real Housewife might be hired to promote, but it's a real thing. And it's good. And we've been doing it since the 1300s.

anne willan 

I'm talking about a spiced red wine called Ypocras, one of the many gems Anne Willan unearthed and modernized in writing The Cookbook Library, a must-own book for any food history buff.

Like sangria, Ypocras is never cooked -- it's simply infused with spices and sugar at room temperature, so the booze doesn't fizzle away.

mix spices

As Willan explains, "It was a way of preserving wine before bottles and corks" -- and it will keep for a month. It also happens to be lovely for sipping.

It's sweet and winey like port, with four heady spices breathing in the fire of a harder aperitif.

mix wine

It's a simple potion to make -- mix spices with brown sugar and wine, wait a day or two, strain. Willan even suggests pouring it back into the original bottle, if you don't have a prettier vessel around.

wine spoon

You can also cook with it -- The Cookbook Library includes a recipe for using it to marinate then braise salmon, but I can see this in desserts or saucing big hunks of game meat too.

"Ypocras, diluted with an equal amount of water, is perfect for poaching whole pears or peaches," Willan suggests. "And a teaspoon of Ypocras in a glass of sparkling white wine makes an unusual Kir."

cheesecloth  strain wine

Bookmark this recipe for the holidays -- you will have a raucous party with Ypocras in tow -- but don't wait till then to try it. It's good to keep around as we shake off the chill -- to sip after dinner, or before, or with steak, cheese, or cookies, or when you're in the bathtub. Just like they did in the 1300s.

spiced red wine

Anne Willan's Ypocras (Spiced Red Wine)

Recipe adapted slightly from The Cookbook Library (University of California Press, 2012)

Makes 3 cups (750 ml)

1 cup brown sugar, packed (200 grams)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground mace
1 tablespoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon ground grains of paradise (you can find them online or substitute an equal amount of black pepper)
1 bottle fruity red wine, such as Merlot
(750 ml)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom


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  • deana@lostpastremembered
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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


deana@lostpastremembered February 27, 2013
Since I write a food history blog, I made a 1390 version (from a Forme of Cury). It had many more spices (many are exotic, like spikenard, galingale, long pepper and cassia bud), but it also had marjoram, nutmeg and cardamom as well as those that Willen used –– sort of pulling out all the spice stops. The result was luscious and so perfumed. Grains of Paradise are amazing. Kudos for bringing it to a new audience.
AntoniaJames February 27, 2013
deana, how interesting! Thank you for this post. I'm particularly interested in your use of marjoram, as I often use marjoram and nutmeg together, albeit in more savory dishes (and often use nutmeg and cardamom together in savory dishes as well). Love your blog, too! ;o)
Brette W. April 10, 2013
I'm writing a research paper on The Forme of Cury and came across it too! Too cool.
Alexandra H. February 24, 2013
This sounds so lovely and delicious! I'm thinking of Dorie's Port Jammer cookies with a reduction of Ypocras!
Penelope February 24, 2013
If you didn't add the sugar would it still last a month?
Alexandra H. February 24, 2013
The sugar acts as a preservative, so the wine would spoil quickly after opening, as normal, without it.
Brandon B. February 23, 2013
This reminds me of a holiday season past where we mulled wine with spices, raisins, and some sweetness, then cooled and bottled the leftover wine. Our end product was void of any alcohol from the mulling, but still good!
mrslarkin February 21, 2013
this sounds fun! and delicious. You know what I found works really really well to strain liquids? A spare Krups gold cone-shaped coffee filter.
Lu February 20, 2013
I had goat cheese broiled with ypocris and really enjoyed that so plan to make this and recreate that.
RebekahCecillia February 20, 2013
Those interested in this post should also look into the Chilean version called "Vino Navegado." It´s a preferred winter libation for Southerners.
AntoniaJames February 20, 2013
I consider Ms. Willan's "Great Cooks and Their Recipes from Taillevent to Escoffier" without question one of the most interesting books on my shelf. I can hardly wait to see this new work! And to try this drink. Oh my goodness! ;o)