What is ratafia?
I knew ratafia was something that characters in Regency romance novels drank and that it was often deemed “sickeningly sweet” and “a drink for ladies” by all the rogues. But what was in it, exactly? And what did it taste like? Obviously, I googled it.
Ratafia is basically alcohol sweetened with fruit, herbs and spices. I found recipes calling for vodka, wine, brandy; quince, cherries, all sorts of berries.
Obviously, I had to make it myself. I came up with the following recipe based on the others that I found, the fruit that was in season, and the spices I had in the house. I’m naming it after myself, because why not?
Maya’s Spiced Cherry Ratafia
1 cup organic cherries
1/4 cup organic sugar
Splashes of spices: cloves, cinnamon, vanilla
Assemble your ingredients so you’re not dashing out to the shop in the middle of the recipe. I often do this and it’s vexing.
Pit the cherries. I just used my fingers. Put them in a bowl and gently mash them with a potato masher.
Pour the cherries into a glass container with a lid. You’ll strain this later, so it’ doesn’t have to be perfectly done.
Add the sugar and the brandy.
For the spices: In the slightest bit of water, I boiled some ground cloves and cinnamon because that’s what I had in the house. We’re talking teaspoons of water and splashes of spices here. Pour this into the ratafia jar with everything else and add a splash of vanilla.
As you can see, this recipe doesn’t make enough for a ballroom full of people. But really, how much of this stuff are you going to drink?
Put a lid on it and refrigerate it for 3 to 5 weeks.
When you’re ready to drink it, you’ll want to strain it first. I used Regency cheese cloth (because that’s what the other recipes suggested and it seemed so appropo). See how I have it taut over the glass? Don’t do that–it won’t work. Give it some slack and the good stuff will slip through into your vintage cocktail glass (these ones are courtesy of my grandma).
Five weeks later…I was desperate for a blog topic and thought perhaps I should finish up this post. Yes, this involved drinking ratafia before 5:00 pm, but it was for research!
Besides, I wasn’t about to drink the whole bottle. Just a sip from this one, pretty glass of homemade ratafia.
I expected the worst. I truly did. But…it’s actually quite nice!
It tastes like Christmas time. The spices hit first, then the smooth, deep flavor of the cherry.
One hardly notices the brandy at all, which everyone knows means Trouble.
Conclusion: Ratafia tastes like a compromising position at a Christmas party. Delicious!
Any other food or drink from romance novels that you’ve wondered about?
Maya Rodale is the author of smart and sassy romance novels.