The ratafia (rat-a-FEE-a) was a nineteenth-century cordial made by steeping fruits and herbs in a sweetened spirit. According to Larousse Gastronomique, the word is of Creole origin and derived from the Latin phrase rata fiat, meaning “Let the deal be closed,’’ referring to the custom of drinking a ratafia to clinch a business transaction. This lovage ratafia can be served hot, which is especially good in winter. Simply heat the cordial to just under the boiling point and pour it into hot mugs that contain lemon slices and cinnamon sticks.
• 2 tablespoons dried lovage seeds
• 1 pint good brandy
• 2 cups water
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
Steep the lovage seeds in the brandy for 30 days in a cool, dark place. Make a sugar syrup by boiling the sugar and water together, covered, for 5 minutes. Strain the brandy and mix with the cooled sugar syrup and other ingredients. Pour into sterilized jars and refrigerate. It will keep up to three months.
— Linda Underhill is a freelance food writer in Alfred, New York. Her partner, Jeanne Nakjavani, is a gourmet cook and food developer in Bradford, Pennsylvania.