Ratafia is a liqueur or cordial flavoured with lemon peel, herbs in various amounts (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, mint, rosemary, anise, etc.) typically combined with sugar. It may also be prepared with peach or cherry kernels, bitter almonds, or other fruits, as many different varieties are made. The same name is given to a flavouring essence resembling bitter almonds, and also to a light biscuit. It is also a cordial made from a mix of marc brandy and the unfermented juice of the grape.
The flavorings can potentially make this liqueur toxic, as peach and cherry kernels contain high levels of a common cyanogenic glucoside, called amygdalin, (about 1.7 mg per gram of kernel), as do bitter almonds (2.5 mg/g).
Other less toxic flavorings can also be used, such as in-season fruit, vegetables, and fresh herbs. A basic recipe includes a bottle of red or white wine, 1/4 cup vodka (to prevent fermentation), 1 cup cut-up fruits, vegetables, or herbs, 1/4 cup sugar. Combine all ingredients in a large jar and refrigerate 3 to 4 weeks; strain into a clean wine bottle and cork or cap tightly. Keep refrigerated.
The name 'ratafia' comes from Latin Rata Fiat. This phrase is used in Catholic wedding ceremonies to announce the official ratification of the marriage, hence literally it means "it is ratified". The inventor of the liquor named it so after the strong liquor enabled the local population of Andorno, Italy to overcome a plague around 1000 AD. His son survived the plague and was able to celebrate his wedding. The Italian dialect of Andorno shortened the name from Rata Fiat to simply Ratafia.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Ratafia.|
- FAO Meeting Report No. PL/1965/10/2 WHO/Food Add/28.65, http://www.inchem.org/documents/jmpr/jmpmono/v65apr09.htm
- New York Times, Dining Out p. F7, by Pete Wells from Monica Pope recipe, Aug 29, 2007 http://www.newyorktimes.com/
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ratafia". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
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