Ladies in Regency novels frequently drink ratafia. It has become the quintessential Regency romance drink, in fact, favoured by authors. I knew it was a sweet wine, but I really knew nothing more until I came across several recipes and options for making ratafia in "The Professed Cook", a wonderful cookery from 1812 which I found downloadable at Google Books.
Ratafia was commercially bottled during the Regency and sold at wine merchants like Berry Bros. and Rudd in London. Supplies must have been limited during the Napoleonic Wars and no doubt ratafia, like so many other wines, was a prime article for smugglers. Ratafia is still commercially produced today.
left photo by Yeza, via Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons
Presumably ratafia was considered a drink suitable for ladies because of the addition of fruit, sugar and spices. The brandy was there, but it was diluted and infused with innocuous ingredients which would not turn 'weak' female heads. Grrrr! One of my heroines demanded madeira instead! Modern day ratafia has an alcohol content of 25%; if the Regency version was similar, the ladies should not have been supping it so freely!
Ratafia still makes the news today, and modern day receipts are to be found on the Internet. Check out these websites:
The Catalan newsagency--ratafia-sweet-green-walnut-liqueur-finds-new-public
The Old Foodie--for-love-of-ratafia
I would like to buy and sample some ratafia; I don't think I'll try my hand at making it!
'Til next time,