Preparation of Ratafià liqueur in Abruzzo is part of a subtle family alchemy, almost a rite, which is passed down from one generation to another, like an invisible thread connecting with the past. In Abruzzo, the Ratafià liqueur is made with sour amarena cherries and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. Its name derives from a legal phrase “Ut rata fiat” meaning “the deal is made”. Apparently, in the past, when a contract was signed, the tradition called for a toast with Ratafià.
Every year, at the end of June, when the cherry tree in our family garden is loaded with the fruit, I carefully select the best amarene. I take a bottle of red wine and pour it over all the ingredients in a large glass jar, which I leave in the sunniest spot on my balcony for 40 days. I always make sure to take the jar inside every night and on cloudy days to make sure it stays at a more or less constant temperature and doesn’t cool down too much.
Then, as the tradition requires, I bottle the liqueur on the Feast of San Lorenzo, August 10. Yes, it might seem like a lot of hassle to take care of the precious jar for so long but, at the end, when my Ratafià is ready, drinking it with friends and family is a great reward.
- 1 kg ripe sour amarena cherries
- 1 litre Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
- 0.3 litre spirit 95%
- 300 gr sugar
- 10 cherry leaves
- 3 pods of star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
Wash the cherries and put them in a large glass jar (or clear glass bottle) together with the leaves, wine and the spices (don’t fill the jar right to the rim, leave a little breathing space). Close the jar and leave it in the sun.
After 40 days, filter the liquid three times, add the alcohol and sugar and leave to rest overnight.
Bottle the Ratafià with a few whole cherries. The liqueur needs to rest in a dark place for another month. Ratafià gets better with age!
Antonella Santilli lives in the Chieti Province and blogs about recipes with wild plants and flowers on Fiori di Malva.