Orchards place bottles over fruit: Voila! Fruit brandy

One day, while walking through an orchard looking for supplies for your culinary academy coursework, you might spot a peculiar sight: glass bottles with fruit inside them that have been fastened to tree branches. These miniature personal greenhouses have been used for centuries to make "eau de vie," or "water of life."

Eau de vie
According to The New York Times, the three-word term "eau de vie," which means water of life, may have been created by a monk in the 17th century. He was looking to make a cure for cholera and attempted this feat by boiling fermented cherries. The end product he deemed "eau de vie." For hundreds of years after this fated day, the surrounding areas created fruit brandies with a similar method of production. 

There are different names for the various fruit versions of this powerful drink:

  • Poire is made of pears.
  • Mirabelle consists of yellow plums.
  • Framboise is a concoction made with raspberries.
  • Kirsch, the original version, is a cherry beverage.

These drinks contain anywhere from 40 to 43 percent alcohol, meaning they are 80 to 86 proof. They pack a punch and have earned many a poem from a remorseful artist suffering a hangover the day after indulging in them. 

The bottles
The use of adding bottles to the trees is to help the fruit to ripen and grow. In late summer, orchard staff members unfasten the bottles and remove any leaves growing directly next to the fruit. The glass is then cleaned and a variety of colorless brandy is added to it along with the fruit that had been housed in it all season. The result is a powerful-flavored, clear beverage with an entire fruit inside of it. Depending on the variety, the drink then sits to ferment and allow the fruit taste to saturate the liquid. Apple eau de vie ferments longer and is sometimes even aged in oak barrels to achieve a darker coloring. 

While this beverage isn't so popular in the U.S. that you can find it on any liquor store shelves, there are various distilleries across the country. Clear Creek Distillery in Portland is well-known for its pear brandies. Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, Michigan, uses local pears, plums, cherries, apricots and apples to make eau de vie that is tasty and closely entwined with supporting other area businesses. 

Looking for a fancy gift to give to your boss or favorite grandparent? This beautiful beverage just might make the cut. It may, however, be (almost) too pretty to drink. 

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