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Jerry_A

Eau De Vie

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Ok, I had a glass of pear Eau de Vie after dinner the other night. This was my first time trying it, and it knocked me on my butt, not what I was expecting at all. I figured it would be a sweet liqueur-type drink, I did not expect the exceedingly strong alcohol flavour. Pardon my ignorance on this subject, but could someone please explain this drink to me, such as what to drink it with, how to differentiate between a good Eau de Vie and a bad Eau de Vie, etc. When I'm feeling brave again and this first glass has finally worn off, I may try it again.

Also, I have to say I really enjoyed the look of the whole pear in the bottle thing, but is this just a gimmick, or do they actually have to do it this way?

Thanks.

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Eau de Vie, loosely translated, means "water of life." Aquavit I believe has the same meaning. I equate the terms with fiery, high alcohol drinks, not sweet liquours.

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Eau de Vie is the raw, unaged spirit from distilled grapes before it becomes Cognac or Armagnac and takes on the characteristics from aging in Troncais or Limousin oak barrels. Most of them are pretty close to distilled strength and they don't tend to dilute them much, so its pretty much rocket fuel. Some of them have entire pears or such in the bottle to add some flavor to them.


Jason Perlow

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The bottle of Poire eau de vie that I bought last year at Bonny Doon Vineyards is still sitting here on my shelf .. my husband drank some, said it reminded him of Slivovitz, and suggested it might work well as a paint remover ... I personally plan to find a way to cook with it ... one day ...


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Also, I have to say I really enjoyed the look of the whole pear in the bottle thing, but is this just a gimmick, or do they actually have to do it this way?

I'm an experienced eau-de-vie consumer, and I don't touch the pear-in-the-bottle-stuff. You pay just to much for the labour intensive way (bottles on a tree) to produce this.

Roughly generalized, eau-de-vie is a spirit distilled out of fruit wine as opposed to distilled cereal wine (Whisky, Vodka, ....). A second variant is grappa or marc, which is produced by distilling the fermented leftover after pressing the wine grapes. Finally, there is a technique to maish berries in pure spirit and to destillate the mix afterwards.

Very good eau-de-vie is produced from very carefully selected fruits and has nothing to do with "liqueur". I've never tasted rocket fuel, but possibly the most expensive eau-de-vie might be similar in price at $100 a bottle. European eau-de-vie aficionados are prepaired to pay high prices for outstanding quality.

It's mainly consumed as digestif after dinner. Most consumers prefer eau-de-vie at fridge temperatures.

Some days ago, I've read here about a US vintage spirit called Applejack, which might be another example of an American eau-de-vie besides Bonny Doon's pear spirit.


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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I thought this site was helpful understanding more about eau de vie (and the pear in the bottle!)

Article here

I like the cooking suggestions at that site!

I enjoy an eau de vie or grappa once in a while. It's nice to have if you want to sit for a while after dinner with a drink and perhaps an espresso. You sip it slowly and enjoy the scent, which seems to develop as you go. It's quite a lot of sensory bang for the buck without tempting you to drink too much of it.

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Thanks for all the info. I found the website very interesting as well, and can imagine using Eau de Vie to cook with as long as you allowed enough of the alcohol to burn off. However, if I were to follow the suggestion of pouring even a little over fuit etc., I think it would just overpower the whatever it was I was eating, I mean this is pretty potent stuff. Maybe I just sampled a bad one, and the others are not quite as strong, although the server gave us a tasting of a raspberry Eau de Vie as well that she had sought out while in France and that was not really any easier on my already sore tastebuds. It did however have a wonderful aroma.

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Some days ago, I've read here about a US vintage spirit called Applejack, which might be another example of an American eau-de-vie besides Bonny Doon's pear spirit.

There are other American eaux de vie besides Bonny Doon -- Clear Creek up in Oregon produces some, as does St. George Spirits in Alameda, CA.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
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Since there is so much revulsion expressed above, I feel the need to chime in here and say that I like eaux de vie... and grappa... and slivovitz... Some are definitely better than others, but the good ones bear no resemblance at all to rocket fuel.

The ones available in the US are not that spectacular most of the time... the german ones in the squared off bottles with the wax seal on are really not that great... but once you've tried a good one, you'll understand the appeal.

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Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I've used Eau de vie as a base for making fruit cordials - add fruit & sugar, let rest for a few months, strain, and age a bit more. Fabulous stuff.

I have one recipe that calls for cherry eau de vie instead of vanilla for baking clafouti, and I have to say that the eau de vie intensified the chery fruit flavor. It was wonderful.

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Since there is so much revulsion expressed above, I feel the need to chime in here and say that I like eaux de vie...  and grappa... and slivovitz...  Some are definitely better than others, but the good ones bear no resemblance at all to rocket fuel.

I'm with you. Have never understood why someone wouldn't like these. Granted, they should be consumed in small sips and from glasses that accentuate the aromas. I'm especially fond of grappa, and was sorry to read Splificator making fun of it in his Esquire book. Bad grappa or eau de vie is no more objectionable than any other bad distilled spirit.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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What I know of Eau De Vie and it's uses is simply in atleast my field of pastry we use it to flavor or enhance the flavor or specific fruits, compotes, flambe, ect. It it very , very strong. As far as I'm aware that is all we use it for. You can drink it but it's not very recommended seeing as it is extremely stong and unenjoyable. But if you're interested in actually trying one, I'd recommend finding a good French eau de vie. That's what we use and it's wonderful and very aeromatic. :wink:

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Since there is so much revulsion expressed above, I feel the need to chime in here and say that I like eaux de vie...  and grappa... and slivovitz...  Some are definitely better than others, but the good ones bear no resemblance at all to rocket fuel.

I'm with you. Have never understood why someone wouldn't like these. Granted, they should be consumed in small sips and from glasses that accentuate the aromas. I'm especially fond of grappa, and was sorry to read Splificator making fun of it in his Esquire book. Bad grappa or eau de vie is no more objectionable than any other bad distilled spirit.

Me three in support of aquavitae. Some do indeed taste like nail-polish remover, but a good one has all these beautiful complicated smells in the glass, feels smooth and warm as it goes down, and cuts refreshingly through a heavy meal once it's in the stomach. :wub:

I've mentioned this a few times on eG, but I love Ransom aquavitae, out of Oregon. Reasonable price for very high quality.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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The Eau de Vie I had was, I believe, called G. Miclo Poire. It was one of the medium priced ones at this particular establishment. Whether that is a good one or not I would like to know, because if not I would like to try a better one to see if I could taste the difference. Otherwise I guess I'll just stick with a nice Tawny as my after-dinner drink of choice.

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The thing about eaux de vie is that they are a) very alcoholic, b) delicately flavored, and c) bone dry. If one is expecting or wanting something sweeter, more emphatically flavored and lower proof (typical for most fruit liquors) an eau de vie will not satisfy. If something sweet and assertive like a tawny port is your idea of a postprandial drink (and why shouldn't it be?) eau de vie may not be to your liking.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'm with you.  Have never understood why someone wouldn't like these.  Granted, they should be consumed in small sips and from glasses that accentuate the aromas.  I'm especially fond of grappa, and was sorry to read Splificator making fun of it in his Esquire book.  Bad grappa or eau de vie is no more objectionable than any other bad distilled spirit.

Maybe we should thank Splificator... if he suppresses demand for the stuff, then the bad ones will fall off the market and the better ones should get cheaper. More for us, at less cost! All hail Splificator for manipulating Adam Smith's invisible hand in our favor!


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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As far as I can tell, an eau de vie is the same thing as a good German/Austrian/Hungarian schnapps. Is that true?

I've had nice ones in Austria and Hungary made from apricots, plums, or pears and to my memory they've tasted like eau de vie's I've tasted since.

Looking on the net a bit I found this quote re: American vs European schnapps:

"It's worth noting that true German schnapps is not what we get in the United States. The major American commercial brands are all heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine as well. It's about as close to true German schnapps perhaps as American beer is to its German counterparts"

(Except for early entry point drinks of hideous peppermint schnapps (ugh) I have thankfully avoided American schnapps since...) Don't know if there are any 'good" ones.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

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My favourite eaux de vie come from Alsace (though I'm sure that Boris's from Switzerland are superlative as well - as are those from Germany's Black Forest). The best are truly the essence, the pure distillation of the fruit from which they are made. Poire William is probably the easiest to enjoy for first-timers, for the sweet pear aromas and flavour in a crystal clear liquor that is at once clean, fiery and powerful is a potent and compelling combination. I've come now particularly to love Mirabelle and Quetsch (both types of plum) while Kirsch (cherry) can also be outstanding, not remotely sweet or syrupy, but smoothly potent, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Make no mistake, these are true artisan products made by master distillers and they deserve to be tried though no doubt they are not to everyone's taste. The best are also always expensive. I love them (but then, I also confess to a terrible weakness for good grappa, preferably grappa gialla, and, hell, if we're going to be specific, grappa gialla di Barolo from the Distilleria Paolo Marolo).

MP

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As I understand it, "schnapps" the generic term as it is used in Germany stands for an unaged distilled neutral grain spirit. Essentially German vodka. It's not clear to me that any of these are flavored.

Anything American named "______ schnapps" on the other hand, will be a sweetened flavored liqueur. It's not clear to me what the difference is between American "____ schnapps" and generic "creme de ____."


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I recall a number of long multi-course meals in Switzerland that ended with a nip of eau-de-vie with coffee and desserts. They were not overpowering and the perfect ending to the meal and a start to a night out. Then there are the endless meals in Spain or Portugal where Port was mandatory with a pears and cheese finale... the swiss digestif wouldn't have seemed right after those Iberian feasts.

Saveur recently covered an Oregon producer of domestic Eau de vies, I think it was the Cold Creek folks.


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Eau de Vie, loosely translated, means "water of life."  Aquavit I believe has the same meaning.  I equate the terms with fiery, high alcohol  drinks, not sweet liquours.

My understanding is that whisky also comes from a word meaning water of life.

the Ancient Celts practised the art of distilling, and had an expressive name for the fiery liquid they produced - uisge beatha - the water of life.

Eaux-de-vie are a favorite around our house. As one might imagine, liquers are not, except when blended into another drink to make an aperitif or cocktail. They appeal to two quite different tastes. The nuances in good eau-de-vie are wonderful. Brandy is actually an eau-de-vie although we usually classify grape eaux-de-vie as brandy and fruit brandies as eaux-de-vie. Fruit brandies should be bone dry, or we are again talking about cordials and liquers.

I wonder if eau-de-vie appreciation and a taste for offal meats, and blood sausage go hand in hand.

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Robert Buxbaum

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As I understand it, "schnapps" the generic term as it is used in Germany stands for an unaged distilled neutral grain spirit.  Essentially German vodka.  It's not clear to me that any of these are flavored.

My understanding is that 'schnapps' is indeed a generic term that can be applied to any number of potent clear liquors, but that it is can sometimes be interchangeable with 'eau de vie', that is a liquor that is distilled from pure fruit, not flavoured with fruit. Distiller René Legoll from Alsace explained to me, "To make good eau de vie, you must begin with fruit of the highest quality. The mirabelle plums from Lorraine are the best in the world, far superior to ours from Alsace. But our own cerises (cherries) are finer. I go down to Provence to seek the most finely perfumed poire Williams while much of the wild fruits and berries that I distill come from Eastern Europe."

The way it's done is that first the fruit must be fermented (like wine). Once the fermentation is complete, the resulting liquid is ready to be distilled. At Legoll's, the entire contents of the fermentation, including fruit solids, pips, liquid, the lot, goes into the copper pot still. Here it is heated indirectly, by bain mairie, in order not to scorch the fruit, and it is carefully double distilled, like Cognac. Legoll's Mirabelle Vielle Réserve, upwards of 50 percent alcohol, is amazing, hugely powerful, yet almost velvety with the fresh yet intensely concentrated character of delicious cooked plums.

Fascinating to read about the production of applejack. Certainly for a home moonshine it sounds interesting, but I'd be worried that the undesirable elements that remain might cause the mother of all hangovers (or worse). Double distilling, discarding the têtes heads and the queues and leaving only the coeur middle cut results in a very clean and safe spirit that is anything but rot gut firewater.

MP

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"It's worth noting that true German schnapps is not what we get in the United States. The major American commercial brands are all heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine as well. It's about as close to true German schnapps perhaps as American beer is to its German counterparts"

Yup, I think that's true. I got into drinking schnapps/grappa/aquavit after dinner with friends & family in Germany. I rarely like sweet liquors (I would have them instead of dessert, rather than with, and even then we're talking amaretto or limoncello.) -- so I suppose I was already a good candidate for dry schnapps. If you were expecting something sweet when approaching a grappa/schnapps/aquavit you would be in for a rude surprise. But I've always wondered why lots of people around here who consider brandy nice after dinner shun grappa -- the former is certainly no less powerful than the latter, it just has a nicer reputation.

Edited to add -- my standard complaint is that Arak has the same lousy "firewater" reputation, even though when done correctly it is essentially the "coeur" of triple-distilled (from grapes, not grain!) aged brandy. And my favorite summer drink...


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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