When I did my vegetarian Tudor meal, a surprise success was Hippocras. It is wine – it can be red or white – sweetened and flavoured with spices. I mixed some white wine with ginger and cinnamon and served it with a sprig of rosemary. It was both light and warming; a lovely thing to drink on a summer evening or a Christmas fire.
The champion handbook for Tudor bartenders must be The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened published in 1669 in which Sir K gives gallons of variations of recipes for his favourite drinks – his subtitle is Whereby is DISCOVERED Several ways for making of Metheglin, Sider, Cherry-Wine, &c. To which you can add Meathe, Hydromel, Sack with Clove-Gilly Flowers and other things to fox your local landlord.
Who knows what they are*, but the recipes are sheer poetry. For White Metheglin
Take a handful of Peny-royal; four handfuls of Angelica; a handful of Rosemary; a handful of Borrage; a handful of Maidenhair, a hand-ful of Hart-tongue; of Liverwort; of Water-cresses, of Scurvy-grass, ana, a handful; of the Roots of Marshmallows, Parsley, Fennel, ana, one Ounce.
Or, more simply, weed the garden and mix it up in the water butt with a hiveful of honey and the contents of your spice rack. It gets you quite a strong Metheglin, apparently.
There is a little section in Gervase Markham’s chapter on “the ordering, preserving, and helping of all sorts of wines, and first of the choice of sweet wines” which the schoolchild in me finds hilarious.
Who couldn’t love a recipe for A REMEDY FOR BASTARD IF IT PRICK that begins “Take and draw him from his lees if he have any…” Just so.
But the best one has to be HOW TO HELP BASTARD BEING EAGER The answer, all you laidback young things, is to “Take two gallons of the best stoned honey…” mmmmm… just floating off now into the early seventeenth century. Back soon…
* Broadly, Meath is Mead (honey wine) and Metheglin is the same but with herbs and spices added. Hydromel is a weaker version.