Ratafia is a term used for two types of sweet alcoholic beverage, either a fortified wine or a fruit-based beverage. The former is a type of mistelle, a mixture of marc brandy and the unfermented juice of the grape, and is the type produced in France. The latter is a liqueur or cordial flavored with lemon peel and 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 liqueur is typical of the Mediterranean areas of Spain, Italy, and north-east of France (Champagne and Burgundy). In the south-central region of Italy (specifically Molise and Abruzzo) Ratafià is made exclusively with fresh cherries and Montepulciano Di Abruzzo wines.
Other flavorings can 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 fortified wine, one of which is made today in New Mexico by producer D.H. Lescombes, uses Moscato grapes fortified with Brandy to stop the fermentation early, which keeps the residual sugar high. The resulting wine is rich and sweet. Traditionally in Europe, Ratafia was served during a celebration when treaties were ratified, hence the name "Ratafia". There are very few producers of Ratafia fortified wine, maybe as few as three.
The same name is also given both to a flavouring essence whose taste resembles bitter almonds and a light biscuit.
- New York Times, Dining Out p. F7, by Pete Wells from Monica Pope recipe, Aug 29, 2007 http://www.newyorktimes.com/