Dear curious reader,
Did you ever imagine how spirits from the past taste like ? Sour ? Sugary ? Herbal ? Low or High proof ?
How to find out ? If you do not have access to old manuscripts a good solution would be to meet Guillaume Ferroni (more HERE). The Marseilles-based bartender and distiller has not only knowledge but also a great collection of antique books (with many old liquid recipes) and on the top, he did put old spirits alive again.
In this post, I’m reporting of a recent talk he gave at the Cocktail Spirits Paris 2017 : follow me into the most fantastic archeological liquid journey !
Why did many spirits disappear at some point ?
—> the arrival of cheap bottles
—> the beginning of labelling and brands
—> the development of a cocktail and bartender culture
When did it change ?
—> in the 19th century
Who was making spirits ?
—> alchemist and vinegar makers
—> chef in premium cuisine, and more precisely the person in charge of candied fruits
—> owners of taverns
What were the two bigger families of spirits pre- 19th century ?
—> “Table spirits” such as Rosolli and Ratafias, Zest based liqueurs….
—> “Medicinal spirits” such as Kümmel, Vespetro, the bitters, the quinine based spirits, Elixir Raspail, Elixir de Glarus, Eau verte de Marseilles, Jerusalem balsalm...
We got lucky and tried three alcools Guillaume Ferroni "woke up".
My favorite was the Vespetro (felt like a light white alcohol with a touch of caraway, something at equal distance from aquavit and gin)
Interestingly enough, no one today could really drink what was drunk then as the sugar ratio was way higher than what we can accept today !
We also tried an Elixir du suédois (black, bitter, minty) and a Ratafia from Marseilles (liqueur based on rhum, many spices among which a great amount of cinammon, and red fruits).
And you ? Did you ever tried those sleeping beauties ?
Which one do you dream to see alive again ?