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Medieval Drinks That Taste Like Christmas

So it begins. The clanking of wine bottles making their way into your home as last minute Christmas gifts.

Every good guest brings one, but the tradition gets old fast when your mother-in-law insists on the same cheap, dusty bottle of red every year.

You could choke it back with a forced smile on your face this holiday season. Or, you can use this article about medieval drinks as the perfect inspo to escape from your holiday drink monotony.

Hippocras

Hippocrates's sleeve being used to make delicious hippocras wine

Hippocrates's sleeve being used to make delicious hippocras wine

A sweet and spicy glass of medieval hippocras

A sweet and spicy glass of medieval hippocras

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates invented this beverage, but it's popularity has prevailed throughout the centuries.

Red or white wine is "mulled" with sugar and warm, aromatic spices like ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper to create a sweet and spicy beverage that will heal your soul.

Once thought to be medicinal, the Victorians brought this beverage back into popularity by adding claret, brandy, or sherry.

These additions of various liquors not only welcome a more intense flavor, but also up the alcohol content considerably. Making this one intense holiday punch.

Hippocras is the perfect recipe to liven up that dusty old red wine you have lingering in your pantry.

Mulled Apple Cider

Medieval apple cider was made by using a fermented drink called dépense

Medieval apple cider was made by using a fermented drink called dépense

In medieval times, wine and beer were relatively expensive but if you could afford water, some apples, and honey - then you could make this slightly alcoholic, lightly fermented mulled cider.

Apple ciders of medieval times weren't as alcohol forward as they are now. They were made from a mixture called dépense which was literally just a jug full of apples and water which was left out to ferment naturally.

The resulting drink was rough and unrefined but boy was it tasty. Especially when warmed up with those signature holiday time spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

Honey as a sweetener added a floral depth of flavor that makes this drink the perfect cozy accompaniment to any wintertime game night.

Prunelle

Prunelle making in 14th century France

Prunelle making in 14th century France

Three different types of fruit juices are mixed together to make a fermented beverage called prunelle.

Made up of wild plum, blackthorn berry, and/or sloeberry juice, this winter beverage was the medieval equivalent of our modern day "fruit wines".

Prunelle and it's blackberry cousin, Murry, were favorites all throughout medieval Europe and particularly in England.

However, the French were particularly fond of the plum version, prunelle. So much so that they have a saying in French that immortalizes their love for the drink, "La prunelle de mes yeux."

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Meaning, "The little, sour plum of my eye."

I don't know whether that is an endearing phrase or an insult. Either way, it's definitely going in my next Christmas card.

Caudle

The ultimate medieval eggnog

The ultimate medieval eggnog

Caudle was medieval eggnog - with an odd and boozy twist.

Instead of being a "custard based" drink, this eggy concoction is made with a base of either white wine or ale.

Whichever alcoholic beverage you prefer is brought up to a simmer before egg yolk, sugar, and saffron are mixed in to flavor and thicken. Sweet and rich, this drink was a popular choice among medieval midwives and young mothers because of it's nourishing, luscious texture.

This beverage originated in medieval England but eventually it made it's way over with English and Irish immigrants to the America's. Due to prohibition it lost it's alcohol base, thus becoming the eggnog we all know and love today.


Dessert Wine

French painting depicting a medieval feast

French painting depicting a medieval feast

In medieval England there was three official types of wine: red, white, and sweet.

Dessert wine was simply a regular wine that was only half fermented so that the grape yeast could not eat up all the sugars. This process resulted in a syrupy sweet, honey colored, highly alcoholic beverage that was reserved for the end of meals.

In medieval England, sickly sweet food and drink were thought to aid in digestion and "close the stomach" -- hence why these sweet wines were always served after a large and luxurious Christmas feast.

Mulberry Gin

Tonic makes a lovely accompaniment for gin liquors

Tonic makes a lovely accompaniment for gin liquors

The British love for gin began a long time ago, way back in Medieval times.

Gin was especially beloved around Christmas in the form of mullberry or sloe gin. Fruity, floral, and sweet aromatic flavors round out a delightful and cheery buzz that will have you singing carols to all of your neighbors - whether they enjoy your singing or not!

Just make sure to bring some along for the whole group. Nobody likes a sloe gin hog.

Posset

A delicious cup of curdled milk and booze

A delicious cup of curdled milk and booze

This drink is as simple to make as it is slightly disturbing.

All you need is two ingredients; beer and milk. Add the milk to the alcoholic base and watch as the beer, white wine, or sack (a medieval sherry) causes the beverage to curdle.

That's it. It's less magic and more milk and booze in a mug on. Go ahead and sling it back as posset was thought of as a cure-all for everything from the common cold to those nasty, day-after-Christmas hangovers.

If you're feeling particularly daring you can add some nutmeg or cinnamon on top--but that's it. This drink traditionally contained no sweetener or other, more redeeming flavors.

However, modern versions of this cure-all do contain sugar and citrus, usually lemon, as flavoring.

Brandy

A medieval monk appreciating well-made brandy

A medieval monk appreciating well-made brandy

Brandy deserves an honorable mention as the ultimate Christmas liquor of the Middle Ages.

Originally called "aquae vitae" brandy was thought to be medicinal or even life saving. It was said that drinking the stuff could even revive your spirit and your soul.

Yes, Medieval people drank this potent liquor straight but it could also be used to fortify mulled wine recipes.

Plus, you can impress your relatives this Christmas by taking a hearty swig straight from the bottle and practicing your best Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow voice.

I've got a bottle of Brandy, I've got a bottle of Brandy. Argh, a Merry Christmas for all!

Wassail

Medieval Wassail

Medieval Wassail

I think it's only appropriate we end with the nicest medieval Christmas drink of all; Wassail.

Wassail is also a spiced wine that is "mulled" with various warm spices. However, unlike Hippocras, it is always served hot and always made with a nice red wine.

This beverage not only includes all the Christmassy spices we love like cinnamon and nutmeg - but also expensive citrus like orange and lemon.

In medieval England having access to citrus was the ultimate sign of wealth alongside all of the spices, which were imported from the Middle East.

Back then Wassail was a costly drink to make, reserved for nobility. Today it is a Christmas favorite that has been warming hearts the world over.

The word Wassail comes from Old Norse and means, "To be fortunate" which we all will be after a couple glasses of this delightful Christmas punch. The holidays just wouldn't be the same without it.


"Wassail! Wassail! All over the town, Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown; Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree; With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink unto thee."

"Wassail! Wassail! All over the town, Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown; Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree; With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink unto thee."

I am suddenly very thirsty and I must away to make one of these fantastic wintery drinks. Until next year, my friends, Happy Holidays and a very Boozy Christmas to all!

Best,

A.

© 2022 Abbagail Marie

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