Post by Jean B.
Does anyone have a recipe for ratafia essence? Actually, I may
have just the book to look in, but it is still packed. Somewhere.
I may not find it for a LONG time. I am looking at a recipe for
Harrogate Almond Tart that calls for that and ratafia biscuits
(which are described elsewhere as being much like amaretti). Oh,
and I do have bitter almond oil and can get apricot kernels.
I presume you've already got as much information as the
OED has, but in case you don't, or some other reader
doesn't, here it is, excerpted from the full entry.
The etymology is included, not as being helpful to your
quest, but because I think it's cool.
Etymology: Apparently < French ratafia (although this is first
attested slightly later: 1694 denoting a drink, 1675 as a toast
in form ratafiat), of uncertain origin, perhaps ultimately
(perhaps via Antilles Creole) < an unattested post-classical
Latin expression *rata fiat, formula to seal a bargain (short
for *rata fiat conventio let the agreement be ratified; 3rd
singular present subjunctive of classical Latin r.r.: see ratio
n.), used as a toast, and subsequently understood to be the name
of the drink. Compare Louisiana French Creole tafia (18th cent.),
probably < French, with loss of the first syllable.
[inserted comment from LR: maybe you could include "tafia"
in your searches to some good effect]
1. a. (a) A liqueur made by steeping nuts, kernels, fruits,
or herbs in any sweetened spirit; (b) a sweet aperitif traditional
in several regions of France, made by adding brandy to unfermented
grape juice and ageing it in a barrel; sometimes flavoured with herbs
and other fruits.
Almonds and the kernels of cherries, apricots, and peaches are the
ingredients most commonly used to flavour ratafia (sense 1a(a)).
b. More fully ratafia essence. An essence used as a flavouring for
food and drink, typically extracted from almonds or the kernels of
cherries, apricots, and peaches (cf. sense 1a(a)).
1851 Penny Cycl. Suppl. I. 106/1 This substance...forms...the
volatile oil of bitter almonds.... It is sold in different degrees
of dilution to cooks, confectioners, and others, to flavour cakes
and liqueurs, under the name of essence of ratafia.
1998 C. G. Sinclair Internat. Dict. Food & Cooking 445/2
Ratafia essence, an alcoholic extract of the kernels of cherries,
peaches, almonds and other stone fruits used as a flavouring.
I do have one other book that might contain an actual
recipe (it's a just-pre-FDA compilation of compounding
druggists' recipes, for such things as asthma cigarettes
incorporating both tobacco and dried Jimson weed, and
hemorrhoidal suppositories made with extract of opium,
cocaine, and belladonna; but it also has some recipes
for condiments--e.g., a Worcestershire sauce that only
has a *little* choloroform in it--, and some for liqueurs);
and in fact, I actually saw it (for the first time in
years) while trying to rationalize my office last month.
But today it's gone missing again.
Lee Rudolph (which may be a good thing; after rereading
that, completely serious, list of examples, I've decided
that any recipe for ratafia in that book would probably
involve prussic acid...)