Today we are going to talk about the history about history and origin of herbal liqueur in Spain. We will talk about the origins and everything that surrounds the production of herbal liqueur. Since the herbal liqueur was our first reference, we are very excited to talk about this amazing drink.
HERBAL LIQUOR, ORIGINS IN SPAIN.
Herbal liqueur in Spain has been a popular drink for centuries. History and Origin of Herbs Liqueur, but since when? The first sources speak of an origin in mountain areas in the north of Spain, just where the provinces of León and Cantabria meet. High mountains, where herbs were added to the white pomace distilled from the peel of the grapes and other wastes from the winemaking process. Perhaps it was not the first place where it was made but it was where it first spread among the population.
It is true that nobody is the first in anything, since everything comes from copying and giving it your own touch. I say this, because the Romans already made spiced wines fashionable in the Iberian Peninsula, that is, wine with herbs of all kinds, which at the time was a revolution in ancient Rome, and much earlier in Greece. Wines of all kinds with bitter herbs, today called vermouth, attributed to the Greek Hippocrates, being called Hippocratic wine in Spain in the Middle Ages, or simply herbal wine.
The human being has always tried to change things to its liking. If I have wine, perhaps bad in taste, I add herbs. But if I also have the knowledge that certain plants are curative, I soak them in wine and look for remedies. Hippocrates is today called the father of science for his many advancements in the field of medicine. He was already using wine mixed with absinthe and dittany flowers. From there, ingredients were added to that wine and it evolved in Rome until what today is known as vermouth.
When the Romans came to the Iberian Peninsula, they brought a lot of things. They also brought their wines and mixed them with herbs. It is clear that this trend, and more in the case of alcohol, penetrated the populations of those inhabitants, passing recipes from generation to generation.
THE ROUTE OF SPICES AND HERBS.
We’ve all heard of the spice trail, yeah! the one that made people pay a high price, in the Middle Ages, for anything that came from afar and helped us change the color, flavor and aroma of food, including alcohol. All kinds of spices, aromatic herbs, dried flowers, seeds, etc. came from Asia, all with a wide range of sweet and sour. So, of course, adding herbs to the first alcohol distillates was a matter of time, and also surely an index of economic power, if the added herbs and spices were exotic.
The spice route was a continuous import of all kinds of plants, seeds, flowers, roots, processed or not, which for centuries were introduced to Europe, from Asia, to cook, perfume and produce all kinds of home-made remedies. Being aware of these new natural products was initially within the reach of kings, monasteries, and in general who could afford it, since they were not affordable for everyone. The most humble people had access to what the countryside offered them around.
First destilations of pomance brandy.
So let’s get in situation… If I have alcohol, which taste doesn´t convince me, I add herbs and spices. But where did those first alcohols come from? Well, if I have wine, and I have left the peel of the grape, then I cook it and try to distill it.
The first distillers in Europe were Monks from France, Italy and Spain back in the 11th century, and the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula contributes certain techniques to distill it. There is also knowledge of certain distillations of all kinds in Egypt, Greece, China, etc.
Focusing on the distillation of the waste produced from winemaking, it is considered without any doubt that the first was Arnau de Villanueva or Arnau de Vilanova (1,240-1,311). A Spanish doctor who according to some sources was born in a town in Zaragoza, in what was the Crown of Aragon in those years. Arnau de Villanueva laid the foundations for the distillation of marc brandy, and wrote about the medical benefits of the distillate resulting from the distillation as well as the properties of wine, and one of his disciples even improved it and called it burning water, brandy . It appears that certain herbs and fruits have already been added for medical benefits.
Arnau de Villanueva’s distillation techniques were used two centuries later in the New World to distill sugar cane and make the first rum.
Use of alcohol and herbal, also in medicine.
History and Origin of Herbs Liqueur is history about herbs, flowers and roots have already been a part of medicine for many centuries. Already the Celtic had extensive knowledge of the therapeutic use of many herbs and roots. As we have said before, Hippocrates was already experimenting with mixing plants and wines, in the 4th century BC.
The monks also searched to add the properties of alcohol with that of plants, and began to make mixtures and distillations seeking a medicinal use. In fact centuries after the monks made combinations to cure all kinds of ailments, in the most modern medicine, alcohol and certain berries gave rise to the first Gins, but we will talk about that in another post here.
Doctors, monks and countrymen in the mountains of northern Spain made mixtures for all purposes. The herbal liqueur in any case is a good digestive and they realized that it fixed certain stomach ailments, as well as the abuse of it, such as wine. An herbal liqueur is still a distilled liquor from the waste of wine production, with a multitude of herbs, seeds, roots, flowers, which have been used as medicine for centuries.
HERBAL LIQUEUR CONQUERED ANCIENT SPAIN.
Let’s go back to the Middle Age. The recipes and combinations of all kinds of spirits distilled with herbs became fashionable and widespread. One of the ways of spreading any kind of knowledge of the popular people is due in large part to transhumance. The monasteries of the time also shared the new recipes and recommended it as a digestive.
The transhumance consisted of moving sheep cattle, in the changes of season. These shepherds took their flocks throughout Spain, and wherever they stopped, for months, they ate and drank, which was typical of the area, and also, they took from their origins what had been invented there. They extended trends in ceramic decoration, pottery techniques, popular songs, ways of making cheeses, and of course types of wine and types of liquors, among them, taking the fashion for the new herbal liqueur, which was widespread in the Cantabrian mountains and Castilla y León, to the south.
HERBAL LIQUEUR BECAME POPULAR.
By mixing alcohol with herbs and sweetening the mixture slightly, made the drink more popular, and perhaps its green color attracted more attention than the original white colorless grape pomace distillate. The herbal liqueur gained a reputation for being a great digestive and made it easier to deal with some stomach ailments.
Once it became popular, it caused the demand to grow and the first producers for commercial purposes emerged. Of course, at that time, in each town or region there was a small producer with his alembic and his formula, just as there were several wine producers.
The pomace of herbs, as you know, is distilled from the remains, from stepping on the grapes, to extract the “mosto” or grape juice. The peel, that is not used to make wine, are used to be distilled, and transform them into white pomace, pomace brandy. This resulting alcohol delighted the people of the time, and they also experimented with their own formulas and recipes. It turned out to be a pain reliever.
Herbal liqueur now a days.
The herbal liquor in Spain, as well as any alcoholic beverage, began little by little to undergo quality controls and the payment of heavy taxes. There were several distillers in each town and region. The recipes and varieties were improved, especially in the alcoholic base, until it became one of the most popular drinks in Spain. After all, people wanted to try new things, especially in cities. In rural areas of the northern half of Spain, such as Castilla y León, Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria, the herbal liqueur remained strong against these new trends of imported drinks from other countries.
THE WAR OF HERBAL LIQUEUR PRICES.
Once herbal liqueur stopped being produced in the small villages, and became controlled by industry, it had to compete with the new liqueurs and other alcoholic beverages of all kinds, which invaded Spain from north to south. Drinks such as Whiskey, Rum, Gins, competed among themselves for customers, and one of the responses of the herbal liqueur industry was to respond with a drop in prices, to be more attractive compared to other drinks. Logically, the drop in prices led to a gradual drop in quality, using increasingly less refined alcoholic bases, and herbs, flowers and spices, being replaced by colorings and flavor enhancers, that is, in many cases the natural process. Some brands certainly remained faithful to the original recipes. This loss of quality was later suffered by all the drinks that we have mentioned before.
LOSS OF QUALITY DUE TO THE LOWER PRICES.
In whiskey, rum and all drinks, brands of poor quality emerged. In the price war market, all products have their representation to compete and it is logical that the quality is not the same.
In Spain, the custom was imposed in the nineties, that when we went to a restaurant, the had the hotelier obligation to invite us to a herbal liqueur, or another similar liquor, and later we went to the disco to drink half a dozen glasses of the new drinks, and pay them expensive of course. This caused the spirits to lower their quality even further, in most cases, causing people to stop drinking this spirits. Although as I have said, all drinks have had their depreciation in the quality of the product over time.
WAYS AND FORMULAS TO MAKE A HERBAL LIQUEUR.
After everything explained as general culture of this drink, we focus more fully on the herbal liqueur.
The ways to make a herbal liqueur, if it is really made of herbs, is by mixing various herbs to the liking of the manufacturer, with marc brandy distilled from grapes, adding sugar to enhance its flavor. There are thousands of recipes. If we understand that any herb or flower can be used, the result of combinations is almost infinite.
It is not only a matter of mixing herbs with marc brandy. The key is the proportion of each herb. If a liquor has an average of between 10 and 40 different types of herbs, the problem comes in how much of each herb to use. If the amount of each herb is altered, a person will notices it. Keeping the mixture round and balanced is difficult
From there we have what in Spain we understand by herbal liqueur. But how many formulas are there for your mix? The answer is; infinite.
I hope you liked reading about herbal pomace liqueurs. During these years, everything we have read and learned about the herbal liqueur, we like to share it.
We invite you to visit and get to know our Bull Terrier herbal liqueur
. We believe that the quality of the herbal liqueur is essential to be valued by our customers, and faithful to our recipe with 100% natural products, we provide the distilled marc brandy with the best guarantees. Discover our Bull Terrier herbal liqueur.
Do you know our Youtube Channel Bull Terrier ? Click here.