Moonshining Catalan style: the making of Ratafia

The Catalan national liquor is Ratafia, a sweet alcoholic beverage traditionally made out of many different spices, all to be found in the Catalan forests. It’s usually drunk after meals as a digestive or as a night drink (with ice).

While ratafias like the famous Russet, which is to be found in almost every Catalan supermarket, contain more than 20 spices, the most traditional ratafias are made with over 80 different kinds of herbs and (dried) fruits: young walnuts with their green peel still on them, lemon peel, clove, mint, rosemary, anise, thyme, sage, basil, lavender, and many, many more.

Although every region and family has it’s own recipe there’s one general rule: the making of ratafia starts on the day of Sant Joan. Sant Joan is a  national holiday on June 23rd, the longest day of the year, celebrated with fireworks and parties on the beaches along the Catalan coast. Also, Sant Joan is the day to look for the indispensable ‘herba de Sant Joan’: St John’s wort (the yellow flowers held by the girl at the right in the picture below).

Finding the ‘herba de Sant Joan’ is just the beginning: many days of hiking to collect all the ingredients will follow. In some villages, like ours, Serinyà, locals get together to collect them, turning it into a social event. The more experienced Ratafia brewers guide and teach the more inexperienced among the group.

After mixing all the ingredients with pure alcohol and sugar in big glass containers, they are put in the sun to rest for 40 days in the ‘sol i serena’: in the sun and quiet. After these 40 days the ratafia will have turned in a thicker, dark substance  with an 26-29% alcohol graduation and will be finally ready to be tasted, another social event to which groups of friends all bring their own ratafia to compare it to others and discuss recipes. 

Fancy a sip? Mas Prim has it’s own ratafia as well, made by Sterre’s mother Elisabeth!

 

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