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herbal liqueur, Basque style

Izarra bottles

Created in 1906 in Hendaye by a botanist-pharmacist named Joseph Grattau, Izarra means ‘star’ in Basque. Over a dozen plants are distilled (nutmeg, coriander, fennel, angelica seeds and roots, celery, mint geranium, elderflower, coriander seeds, nigella, wild thyme, cardamom, green aniseed and wormwood) they are blended with macerated Agen prunes and walnut husks. At the end some sugar and Armagnac is added for the final touch.

It is one of those French liqueurs with a memorable ad by Paul Colin, designed in 1950; it even earned a mention in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

There are three colours and flavours:

Izarra Jaune: the yellow (40 proof) is made up of 13 plants and spices, with a dominant taste of fresh honey.

Izarra Vert: the green (40 proof) is flavoured by 16 plants and spices, green walnuts and prunes, but dominated by peppermint

Izarra 54: the new violet-tinted Izarra is 54 proof, and made of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, wild thyme, angelica, anise, and peppermint among other essences.

Basque Country and Béarn


Text © Dana Facaros

Image by izzara