Eau de vie

Literally “water of life,” an eau-de-vie is a clear distilled spirit made from fermented fruit. It can be made in almost any flavor, but the most popular eaux de vie are kirsch (cherry); framboise (raspberry); poire, particularly poire William (pear); mirabelle (a type of yellow plum); and quetsche (a purple prune plum). Normally served chilled after dinner, eaux de vie are often used to add extra punch to desserts (in place of or in addition to extract), syrups, and sauces. Like aquavit and slivovitz, eaux de vie from other cultures, French eau de vie used to be made at home. One of the loveliest gifts Michael and I ever received was a bottle of mirabelle that our friend’s grandfather had made in 1947. When we brought it out at a dinner for French friends in Paris, the sight of the bottle, with its carefully printed label, brought back such powerful memories of times past that a few people’s eyes filled with tears.

Dorie Greenspan

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