Per Neimark, U.S. producers are taking a cherished tradition from the Alsace region of France…and producing craft brandies that feature whole fruit in the bottle.
The tradition, which dates back to the 1700s, is called eau de vie de poire. (This translates to “pear water of life”). Distilleries are also making spirits from other locally-sourced fruits, including cherries, pears, plums, apples, peaches and raspberries. (Although these may not be of the whole-fruit-in-the-bottle variety).
The production of brandy has historically been used as a way to preserve excess fruit; such drinks were popular in colonial America. Today, craft distilleries often buy “gradeouts” – fruit seconds – to make their wares, which also reduces food waste.
“It’s a great way to support our orchards,” says Don Coe of Blackstar Farms in Suttons Bay, Mich., a winery, distillery and inn that has been producing wines and fruit brandies since 1999. Coe, for instance, buys pears from a nearby orchard for 20 cents a pound that previously only got 10 cents a pound for pears. Coe also pays the orchard $10 per pear in a bottle. Even then, it’s quite lucrative for him. Says Coe: “Essentially we’re turning what was once a 3-cent pear into a $60 bottle of brandy.”
This article has a great bit on the history of fermented beverages. Bonus? A recipe for a Brandy Sidecar. A lyrical, informative must-read.