Ratafía is one of the best brandy-based liqueurs in the regions around Girona, Osona and by extension the rest of Catalonia.
The mixture of fresh walnuts, herbs, fruits and spices (up to a hundred) make what is certainly a liqueur of a thousand sensations.
On the palate it has an unmistakeable aniseed flavour with a fennel and mint aftertaste. Ratafía has an ecclesiastical origin, and is a reminder of the close historical relationship that there has always been between beers, distilled drinks and the church. At least until the 17th century, liqueurs (then called medicines) were practically the monopoly of the monasteries where they were prepared.
One of the stories relating to this liqueur was written by Jacint Verdaguer. In the Rondalla de la ratafia he wrote that the name derives from the Latin rata fiat, the toast which seals the formalisation of an agreement. According to the story, three bishops who were seated together after having reached an agreement asked a servant for something to drink as their throats were dry after so much debate. The servant offered them a nameless drink which they greatly enjoyed. When they saw that it had no name, the bishops decided to christen it with a name to commemorate the signing of their agreement, rata fiat ("ratified" or " it has been signed"). The green walnuts are usually collected a little before Sant Joan’s day, when the nut is still tender and moist.
Place the aniseed in a container and for each litre, add a dozen chopped green walnuts.
Add the herbs (you can add anything up to forty types of herbs depending on personal taste). Once all the ingredients have been added, leave for 40 days outside (day and night) on a rooftop in a covered wooden bucket so that there is a marked contrast between heat and cold.
After this time, strain the liquid and add sugar (using a ratio of 200 g of sugar per litre of liqueur, although you can add up to 500 g, depending on the type of aniseed you use).
After marinating, the resulting liqueur should be left to stand for a while in oak barrels and age for three or four more months before bottling, so it can be drunk at the end of November or beginning of December (it should be prepared in June or July). If you do not have any oak barrels, it can be bottled directly and stored.