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DIY Plum Ratafia

Capture the flavor of fresh plums with this autumnal fortified wine.

Ratafia comes cloaked in romance and mystery. The name can refer to several things, from an amaretti-style cookie to a beverage made from the leftover juice of Champagne grapes, but most often it refers to a fortified wine mixed with ingredients like stone fruit, citrus and spices. In her book, The Wildcrafted Cocktail, forager and botanical instructor Ellen Zachos features a ratafia made with wild cherry plums, but any fresh plums will do. “Cherry plum ratafia is one of my new favorite wild beverages,” Zachos says. “It’s a superb aperitif and adds unusual flavor to cocktails that call for vermouth.” No need to raid your wine collection for a fancy bottle, as an inexpensive, everyday wine will make a fine base. “You’re going to be adding flavors, not preserving the exquisite taste of a fine vintage,” she says.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped plums
  • 2 (750 ml.) bottles red wine
  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup brandy
  • Tools:Knife, half-gallon jar with lid, large bowl, whisk, mesh strainer or cheesecloth, funnel, bottles for finished wine

Preparation

Roughly chop the plums and put them in a half-gallon jar with a tight-sealing lid. Include the pits for extra flavor.

Combine the wine, sugar and brandy in a large bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar. (See tip about adding additional flavors and spices, if desired.)

Pour the liquid into the half- gallon jar and shake to combine. Put the jar in the refrigerator and let the mixture steep for 2 to 3 weeks, shaking it once a day.

Strain out the solids using a mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth. The boozy fruit can be reserved for another use, such as jam.

Use a funnel to bottle the finished ratafia for storage. It will keep in the refrigerator for several months.

Tip: Ratafia offers a more-or-less blank canvas for flavor experimentation. Many recipes call for the addition of ingredients like citrus peel and juice, spices like cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg, or even herbs like lovage, mint or sage. Increase the sugar to create more of a cordial- style beverage, or dial it back for a drier aperitif—it’s all to taste.

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