Terafan Greydragon of Drachenwald University
What is a cordial or liqueur? According to the Webster's
New International dictionary (2nd ed, unabridged, 1953) it is
"a spirituous liquor flavoured with various aromatic substances, usually
sweetened, and often brandy-based. Liqueurs are usually made by steeping the
flavouring material in the spirit." Knowing that they are often
brandy-based, it is useful to know that brandy is distilled from wine. As
identified, cordials and liqueurs are usually made by adding some flavour to
alcohol, via an infusion. So now, the question becomes whether or not
distillation is period, and whether or not it is a period practice to steep or soak
fruit and spices in alcohol.
The short answer is "yes". The second section of
Hugh Platt's Delightes for Ladies (London, 1609) is titled "Secrets in
Distillation"; and its first recipe is called "How to make true
spirit of wine." Most of the rest of the recipes, though, are how to
make things like rosewater, or heavily herbed and spiced things, not what one
would think of as either modern liqueurs or cordials. Sir Kenelm Digbie (1615),
the primary (and largest) source for near-period brewing information, contains
no recipes that call for distillation, or for using its product (i.e. you don't
add spirit of wine).
In the fifth collection in Curye on Inglysch, is a
section called "Goud Kokery", with a 14th century recipe for
distilling "aqua vite" from the lees of strong wine, which seems to
produce something that would appear to be a heavily spiced (and probably rather
weak, given the methods described) brandy. So some form of such distilling is
Fille thi viol ful of lyes of strong
wiyn, & putte therto these poudris: poudir of canel, of clowes, of
gyngyuer, of notemugges, of galyngale, of quibibis, of greyn de parys, of longe
peper, of blake peper: alle these in powdir. Careawey, cirmunteyn, comyn,
fenel, smallage, persile, sauge, myntis, ruwe, calamynte, origanum: and a half
unce or moore or lasse, as thee likith. Pownd hem a litil, for it will be the
betir, & put hem to these poudris, Thanne sette thi glas on the fier, sett
on the houel, & kepe it wel that the hete come not o it; & sette
thervndir a viol, & kepe the watir.
It is not clear whether anyone ever drank this stuff, i.e.
used the result as a beverage. The closest I have to an indication of such a
use is that it is used sparingly as an ingredient in some recipes for making
spiced wines or ales (amazingly enough, these recipes tend to indicate
In most of Europe, distilling alcohol for the
purpose of drinking is a late period practice, with the main example being
brandy (distilled wine), c. 1400-1500. Whiskey was apparently distilled much
earlier, but in fringe areas, so to speak (i.e. Ireland and Scotland). So I don't think you get liqueurs
until near the end of our period, and brandy is the most likely liquid for them
to be based on. Of course, distillation was known much earlier, but from an
(al)chemical, not culinary, standpoint.
11 November AS XXXV
to Aqua Vitae
Originally whiskey was very different to the refined spirits
we have today. It had almost a soupy consistency with a strong smoky flavour
from the peat used in the fires to dry the malt. Early stories go back to the
sixth century AD, but the earliest documented record (surviving legal
reference) of distilling in Scotland occurs in 1494, when an entry in the
Exchequer Rolls of James IV of Scotland (1473-1513) which note that the King
had his aqua vitae distilled from barley by a friar. The rolls listed "Eight
bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae" (water
of life). A boll was an old Scottish measure of not more than six bushels.
(One bushel is equivalent to 25.4 kg) This was sufficient to produce almost
1500 bottles. (The Scots Cellar by F. Marian MacNeill, Edinburgh,
MacDonald Printers, 1956).
As for the Arabic distillation of spirits, look for
references to Jabir ibn Hayyan, (around 800 C.E) who improved distillation
techniques in the 9th Century. I think this was the simple retort with a
simple external condenser.
The chilled condenser, which is needed in producing high
potency alcohol, is a European design from about the 13th Century.
Apocryphally, brandy was first distilled about 1300 at the Montpellier medical school by medical
professor (and alchemist) Arnoldus Villanovanus AKA Arnaldus de Villa Nova AKA
Arnaud de Villeneuve. Arnold wrote of aqua vitae and its
restorative properties and also of the medicinal properties of various
flavoured alcohols. Legal documents dating to 1411 mention the distillation of
wine into brandy in the Armagnac region of France.
Das Buch zu Destilliern by Hieronymus Braunsweig was
printed in 1519. This book, as its title explains, is a book on distillation.
In his Herball or General Historie of Plants (London, 1597), John Gerard says
"There is drawne out of Wine a
liquor, which the Latines commonly call Aqua vitae, or water of life, and also
Aqua ardens, or burning water, which as distilled waters are drawne out
of herbes and other things, is after the same manner distilled out of strong
wine, that is to say, by certaine instruments made for this purpose, which are
commonly called Lembickes."
VIII was the first monarch to officially require that the product come only
from licensed distilleries. However it was not until 1661 that the first direct
tax (4d. a gallon) was imposed. (An Encyclopedia of Drinks & Drinking,
by Frederick Martin, Toronto, Coles Press, 1980). Spirit of Honey - (from Delightes for
Ladies, by Sir Hugh Plat, 1609.)
Put one part of Honey to 5 parts of
water: when the water boyleth, dissolue your Honey therein, skimme it, and
hauing sodden an houre or two, put it into a woodden vessell, and when it is
but bloudwarme, set it on worke with yeast after the vsuall manner of Beere and
Ale: runne it, and when it hath lyen some time, it wil yeeld his Spirit by
distillation, as Wine, Beere and Ale will doe.
TO MAKE DOCTOR STEVEN'S WATER
(from The English Housewife by Gervase Markham, 1615)
To make that sovereign water which was
first invented by Doctor Stevens, in the same form as he delivered the receipt
to the Archbishop of Canterbury, a little before the death of the said doctor:
take a gallon of good Gascon wine, then take ginger, galingale, cinnamon,
nutmegs, grains, cloves bruised, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, origanum, of
every of them a like quantity, that is to say a dram; then take sage, wild
marjoram, pennyroyal, mints, red roses, thyme, pellitory, rosemary, wild thyme,
camomile, lavender, of each of them a handful, then bray the spices small, and
bruise the herbs and put all into the wine, and let it stand so twelve hours,
only stir it divers times; then distil it by a limbeck, and keep the first
water by itself, for that is the best, then keep the second water for that is
good, and for the last neglect it not, for it is very wholesome though the
worst of the three.
Duke Cariadoc of the Bow has included a recipe for lemon
syrup in his Miscellany - (http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/cariadoc/drinks.html#5)
from an Andalusian book. There is further evidence of the use of fruit
flavored syrups in the AlQanun Fi AlTibb (The Law of Medicine) by Abu Ali
al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina (ce 937-1037). This book contains a large
number of prescriptions for various ills, among which are a number of what we
would call cordials.
BASIC LIQUEUR (CORDIAL)
process involves using fruit to provide the basic flavour, and adding a
distilled spirit and sugar. The fruit was usually pressed by hand (or feet)
and mixed with sugar (though sometimes allowed to stand alone.) The spirit was
added and allowed to mellow while picking up the characteristic of that
particular fruit. Exotic essences were added when making special cordials.
This basic recipe is designed as a very simple ("I have no clue, and can't
find a recipe") recipe from which to start all cordials. It is very
similar to ones in the CA Guide to Brewing. I have found that using a good
quality vodka (not Popov, ~- use Absolut, Smirnoff, or Finlandia) makes a big
- 2 lbs fresh fruit
cups 100 proof vodka
- 1 cup sugar
Throw it all in a blender, and puree it
well. Pour it into a bottle and let it sit for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain out the
pulp, and then filter through a coffee filter. Some liqueurs may need to age
some more, but most will be ready to drink. A great number of recipes call for
either a pinch of cinnamon or 1 vanilla bean. If you think this might add to
the taste or enhance the fruit taste, by all means try it.
One method I use to extract more flavour
from the fruit is to freeze it. Because water expands when it freezes,
freezing will rupture the cell walls in the fruit, thereby releasing more of
the essence of the fruit.
Sugar syrup is used for many recipes.
The ratio is 1 part water to 2 parts sugar. Boil together for about 5 minutes,
making sure the sugar dissolves. -The syrup must be cool before adding to the
alcohol mixture, as heat evaporates alcohol.
1/2 cup water + 1 cup white
sugar yields 1 cup syrup. One cup syrup plus three cups 80 proof vodka equals
60 proof liqueur. Two cups syrup plus three cups 80 proof vodka equals 48 proof
liqueur. If using grain alcohol (190 proof, use twice as much syrup, with an
extra 1/4 cup of water per cup of syrup.
- 2 Lemons
- 1 cup sugar
Peel lemons with parer so that peel is
one continuous strip. Place peel and vodka in jar with tight-fitting lid for 1
week, occasionally shaking. Remove peel and add sugar. Let stand another week
(CA Guide to
LIMONCELLO, makes 3
quarts (from a native of Sorrento, Italy)
- 15 lemons
- 2 bottles 100 proof vodka (750 ml each)
- 6 cups sugar
- 4 cups water
Scrub lemons, using warm
water and a brush, to remove any wax or pesticide residue. Remove zest from
lemons using a vegetable peeler. Avoid including the white pith, as this adds
bitterness. Add the zest to half of the vodka. Wait 40 days and then add second
half of the vodka and sugar syrup. Sugar syrup is made by combining the sugar
and water in a saucepan, bring to boil and cook about 5 minutes. Wait another
40 days then strain out zest and bottle. Can be stored at room temperature, but
keep a bottle in the freezer for serving.
A note of caution: I have
judged a lemon cordial that included the peel along with the juice in the
recipe and it had a very bitter taste. We concluded that the pith left on the
lemon peel was the cause of the bitterness.
IRISH CREAM LIQUEUR
- 3 eggs
tsp coconut extract
- 3 TBS chocolate
- 1 TBS vanilla
- 2 cups Irish
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
Combine all ingredients in blender for 3
minutes. Refrigerate until thick, approximately 3-4 weeks. This recipe is
amazingly similar to commercial brands.
Liqueurs for Gifts
A CORDIALL WATER - c. 1550 to
1625 (From Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, ed. by Karen Hess.)
Take burrage &
buglos flowers, as many as will [gap in MS] a still, & put thereto as much
sack & clare[t] as will wet them well. & to every pinte of [cordial]
water, you must put 2 ounces of white sugar candie & one grayne of
ambergreece, finely beaten. ye sugar candy must be put into ye glass bottles &
let ye water distill upon it very gently.
TO MAKE CINNAMON WATER - c. 1550 to
1625 (From Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, ed. by Karen Hess.)
Take a gallon of
muskadine, malmsey, or sack & put it in A vessill yt may be close covered,
& put to it into ye vessell a pound of bruised cinnamon. let it stand 3
dayes, & every day stir 2 or 3 times. then put it in a limbeck of glass,
stoped fast. set it in a brass pot full of water,1 & put hay in ye bottome
& about ye sydes. then make ye pot seeth, & let it distill in to a glass
kept as close as may be. shift ye glass every houre after ye first time, for ye
first will be ye strongest, & ye last will be very weak.
- Arnald of Villanova, (1235-1311). The
Earliest Printed Book on Wine. translated from the German edition by
Sigerist, Henry E. Published by SchumanĚs New York 1943.
- Hess, Karen. Martha Washington's Booke
of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats. Published by Columbia University Press. NY
1995. ISBN 0-231-04931-5
- Bellis, Ken, Maki, Inexpensive Liqueurs,
Argus Books, ISBN 0-900841-43-5
- Meilach, Dona & Mel, Homemade
Liqueurs, Contemporary Books, Inc. ISBN 0-80927137-0
- Cosman, Madeline Pelner, Fabulous
Feasts, George Brazifier Ine, NY 1976
- Crosby, Nancy and S.
Kenny, Kitchen Cordials
- Freid, Mimi, Making Liqueurs for Gifts,
Storey Communications, Inc., VT 1988
- Herstein, K.M. and M.B. Jacobs. Chemistry
and Technology for Wines and Liqueurs. 2nd ed. D. Van Nrstrand Co, NY,
- Cindy Renfrow/Sincgiefu, A Sip
Through Time, A Collection of Old Brewing Recipes, 1995, ISBN 0-9628598-3-4
- Waugh, Alec, Foods of the World: Wine
- Jane Sibley, The CA Guide to Brewing,
Society for Creative Anachronism, 1983
- Sir Kenelme Digby, The Closet Opened,
- Alice Fleming, Alcohol: The Delightful
Poison. Dell Publishing Co, New York, 1975
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