Ratafia dels Raiers,[1] from La Pobla de Segur
TypeSweet alcoholic beverage
Country of origin Mediterranean
FlavourFruits or kernels, usually almond, or the kernels of peach, apricot or cherry
Ratafià of Andorno, Italy

Ratafia is a broad term used for two types of sweet alcoholic beverages, a flavouring essence whose taste resembles bitter almonds,[2] later to a ratafia flavoured biscuit, a biscuit to be eaten along with ratafia, and later still, to a cherry variety.[3][4][5][6]

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the word's earliest date of use as 1699.[3]


Ratafia liqueurs are alcoholic beverages, originally Italian, compound liqueurs or cordials made by the maceration of ingredients such as aromatics, fruits, in pre-distilled spirits, followed by filtration and sweetening, the flavouring ingredients being merely infused in it.[7][3] Ratafia may be flavoured with kernels (almond, peach, apricot, or cherry),[3] lemon peel and spices in various amounts (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, mint, rosemary, anise, etc.), typically combined with sugar. Other flavourings can be used, such as vegetables and fresh herbs.

The liqueur is typical of the Mediterranean areas of Spain, Italy, and north-east of France (Champagne and Burgundy). In the south-central region of Italy, (specifically Molise and Abruzzo) ratafià is made exclusively with fresh cherries and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines.[8]

Lazzaroni Amaretto, Luxardo Albicocca, Kahlua, Heering Original Cherry Liqueur, Alpenz Saint Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Carlshamms Flaggpunsch, Seale John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum are ratafia liqueurs.[8]

The liqueur form of ratafia is mentioned humorously in the lyrics of the song "The Unfortunate Miss Bailey", written by Lou Gottlieb and released by the Kingston Trio in 1959 on their album Here We Go Again!.

Fortified wine

The second type, ratafia de Champagne,[9][6] a fortified wine, is a type of mistelle, a mixture of marc (grappa) and the unfermented juice of the grape, and is the type produced in France.

D.H. Lescombes, in New Mexico, uses Moscato grapes fortified with brandy to stop the fermentation early, which keeps the residual sugar high.[10][11]


a small macaroon flavoured with almonds
Collins English Dictionary[12]

Ratafia biscuits are made with ratafia essence, sweet almonds, apricot kernels, rosewater, egg white, sugar.[13][14] Originally made with sweet and bitter almonds, now apricot kernels.[13] Amaretto is a ratafia liquor, thus the ratafia biscuits.[13][15]

In 1727, The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith included a recipe for To make Ratafia Bisket,[16] with the ingredients: bitter almonds, sugar and egg white, making it a confection that is very similar to a modern macaroon.[3][17][18]

In 1789, The Complete Confectioner, by Frederick Nutt, a confectioner, formerly apprenticed with Domenico Negri,[19] an Italian who opened "The Pot and Pineapple" confectionery shop at 7-8 Berkeley Square, London, founded 1757, included a recipe, "No. 29. Ratafia Biscuits":

Take half a pound of sweet almonds, and half a pound of bitter almonds, and pound them in a mortar very fine, with whites of eggs; put three pounds of powdered sugar, mix it well with the whites of eggs, to the proper thickness into a bason; put two or three sheets of paper on the plate you bake on; take your knife, and the spaddle made of wood, and drop them on the paper, let them be round, and about the size of a large nutmeg; put them in the oven, which must be quick, let them have a fine brown, and all alike, but be careful they are not burnt at bottom, else they will not come off the paper when baked; let them be cold before you take them off.[20][21][22]

Other uses

Ratafia essence was suggested in a BBC recipe in their 1940 publication Food Facts For The Kitchen Front, for making mock marzipan, along with soya flour, margarine and sugar.[23]



  1. ^ "2019 USA Spirits Ratings". USA Spirits Ratings. Beverage Trade Network. Archived from the original on 2020-09-02. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  2. ^ Lawson, Nigella (11 December 2012). "Flavourings for Christmas Baking". Nigella.com. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ratafia biscuit". British History Online. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  4. ^ "Ratafia biscuits". Waitrose. Waitrose & Partners. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Ratafia biscuits recipes". BBC Food. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Ratafia: Nut-flavored Liqueur". taste atlas. AtlasMedia Ltd. (EU). Retrieved 2 September 2020. Unlike the French ratafia de Champagne that classifies as a fortified wine, ratafia liqueur is associated with Mediterranean countries, primarily Italy, Catalonia, and southern France. This versatile liqueur is typically based on a neutral spirit that is macerated with fresh fruits, citrus zest, and various botanicals such as rosemary, cinnamon, mint, anise, and cloves, while similar versions may use apricot kernels or bitter almonds. Although the recipes may vary, the choice of fruits and herbs typically includes different berry varieties.
  7. ^ Froud and Turgeon (1961)
  8. ^ a b "Ratafia Liqueurs". Elemental Mixology. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Ratafia". Wine-Searcher. 16 May 2018. Archived from the original on 2017-03-15. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Wine Review: DH Lescombes NV "Ratafia" White Table Wine New Mexico USA". Tastings.com. Beverage Testing Institute. 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Awards". Lescombes Family Vineyards. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Ratafia biscuit: definition and meaning". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  13. ^ a b c "18th Century: Ratafia Biscuits from Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings, Savoury and Sweet by Regula Ysewijn". app.ckbk.com. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  14. ^ "Ratafia Biscuits Recipe". Food.com. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  15. ^ "Amaretto: definition and meaning". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  16. ^ Smith, E. (Eliza) (2004-12-03). The compleat housewife: or, Accomplish'd gentlewoman's companion: being a collection of several hundred of the most approved receipts, in cookery, pastry, confectionary, preserving, pickles, cakes, creams, jellies, made wines, cordials. And also bills of fare for every month in the year. : To which is added, a collection of near two hundred family receipts of medicines; viz. drinks, syrups, salves, ointments, and many other things of sovereign and approved efficacy in most distempers, pains, aches, wounds, sores, &c. never before made publick in these parts; fit either for private families, or such publick-spirited gentlewomen as would be beneficent to their poor neighbors. / By E. Smith. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  17. ^ Smith, Eliza (1739-02-03). "The Compleat Housewife: Or, Accomplish'd Gentlewoman's Companion:: Being a Collection of Upwards of Six Hundred of the Most Approved Receipts in Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Preserving, Pickles, Cakes, Creams, Jellies, Made Wines, Cordials. With Copper Plates Curiously Engraven for the Regular Disposition of Placing the Various Dishes and Courses. And Also Bills of Fare for Every Month in the Year. To which is Added, a Collection of Above Three Hundred Family Receipts of Medicines: Viz. Drinks, Syrups, Salves, Ointments ..." J. and J. Pemberton. Retrieved 2020-02-03 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Smith, E. (Eliza) (1773-02-03). "The compleat housewife, or, Accomplished gentlewoman's companion : being a collection of upwards of seven hundred of the most approved receipts in cookery, pastry, confectionary, potting, collaring, preserving, pickles, cakes, custards, creams, preserves, conserves, syrups, jellies, made wines, cordials, distilling, brewing : with copper plates, curiously engraven, for the regular disposition or placing of the various dishes and courses : and also, bills of fare for every month in the year : to which is added, a collection of three hundred receipts of medicines, consisting of drinks, syrups, salves, ointments, &c. which, after many years of experience, have been proved to be innocent in their application, and most salutary in their use : with directions for marketing". London : Printed for J. Buckland, J. and F. Rivington, J. Hinton, Hawes, Clarke and Collins, W. Johnston, C. Crowder, T. Longman, B. Law, T. Lowndes, S. Bladon, W. Nicoll, and C. and R. Ward. Retrieved 2020-02-03 – via Internet Archive.
  19. ^ Sanborn, Vic (10 July 2013). "The Pot and Pineapple and Gunter's: Domenico Negri, Robert Gunter, and the Confectioner's Art in Georgian London". Jane Austen's World. Maryland, USA.
  20. ^ Nutt, Frederick (1807). The complete confectioner : or, The whole art of confectionary made easy: containing, among a variety of useful matter, the art of making the various kinds of biscuits, drops ... as also the most approved method of making cheeses, puddings, cakes &c. in 250 cheap and fashionable receipts. The result of many years experience with the celebrated Negri and Witten. London printed: New York : reprinted, for Richard Scott and sold at his bookstore, no. 243 Pearl-street. p. 25. Retrieved 2 September 2020. No. 29. Ratafia Biscuits
  21. ^ Nutt, Frederick (1807). The Complete Confectioner: Or, The Whole Art of Confectionary Made Easy: Containing, Among a Variety of Useful Matter, the Art of Making the Various Kinds of Biscuits, Drops ... as Also the Most Approved Method of Making Cheeses, Puddings, Cakes &c. in 250 Cheap and Fashionable Receipts. The Result of Many Years Experience with the Celebrated Negri and Witten. reprinted, for Richard Scott and sold at his bookstore, no. 243 Pearl-street. p. 25. No. 29. Ratafia Biscuits
  22. ^ Nutt, Frederick (1809). The Complete Confectioner, Or, The Whole Art of Confectionary, Made Easy; with Receipts for Liqueures, Home-made Wines, &c: The Result of Many Years Experience with the Celebrated Negri and Witten (6 ed.). London: Matthews and Leigh (J. Smeeton, printer). p. 38. No. 29. Ratafia Biscuits
  23. ^ Ekins, Carolyn (December 2012). "Mock Marzipan No.100". The 1940s Experiment. Retrieved 29 April 2020.