Nicknamed the apéritif du vigneron, ratafia is nearly always a homemade apéritif. The word is newer than the drink, however. It comes from the Creole, which in turn comes from the Latin rata fiat, which they said when making a toast to mark the closing of a deal.
There are two kinds. One is made by macerating fruits or plants (cherry kernals, angelica, walnuts, quinces etc) in sweet alcohol.
The second is a sweet vin de liqueur made with marc or eau de vie and cooked unfermented grape juice, using the surplus from the wine making, mixed with cinnamon, cloves and coriander. The mixture is left to macerate for a month or so, then sugar is added.
The addition of sugar, spices and/or fruit is the difference between a ratafia and a mistelle.
Ratafia Champenois or Ratafia de Champagne, first noted in the Champagne region in the 13th century, is designated IGP. It uses the same grapes as Champagne, mixed with marc de Champagne.
There are also macaron-like biscuits called ratafias, flavoured with ratafia, for nibbling while sipping.
Image by Dana Facaros