Eaux de Vies

So just to throw a wrench into the cocktail portion of the week I am going to talk about eaux de vies which you will find stowed away somewhere probably where your dry sherries and juices are found depending on how big your fridge is.

Eaux de Vies when translated mean water of life and it is the purest forms of alcohol you will find. The colour is always white as eaux de vies are not aged in wood.

How these white eaux de vies are made is the chosen fruit is mashed into a pulp and yeast is added to it to start the fermentation , then it is double distilled in pot stills to retain the characteristics of the fruit chosen. The brandy added is white of course due to it not being aged in wood. After the double distillation they are either stored in glass containers or bottled to preserve it’s freshness.

When fruits such as plums or cherries with pits are used about 1/3 of the crushed stone is added to the juice giving a bitter almond taste or tang to the finished product.

Some soft fruits where the sugar level is low are often macerated in alcohol before distillation such as raspberries and strawberries to impart more flavour.

Other soft fruits such as blackcurrant are left to macerate in a neutral spirit for weeks slowly extracting the flavours creating no need for distillation. They will retain the colour. Such as Cassis. These are not generally regarded as eaux de vies but fruit based liqueurs.

In Germany where many eaux de vies come from along with France and Switzerland there are two words used. They are Wasser and Geist.

Wasser means the spirit was produced from fermented fruit juice and then distilled whereas Geist means the fruit was macerated in alcohol and then distilled. Remember macerated more or less means soaked in.

Some popular examples of eaux de vies and where they come from are as follows;

Quetsch Blue Plum France
Poire William Williams Pear France , Germany and Switzerland
Mirabelle Yellow Plum France
Kirschwasser Cherry Germany and Switzerland
Framboise Raspberry France
Edbeergeist Strawberry Germany and Switzerland
Slivovitz Blue Plum Bosnia and Serbia

They are pretty potent and usually served after dinner with an espresso to match the strength. I have not really acquired a taste for them as such. They are not the sweet fruit based liqueurs I prefer and the eaux de vies are generally not popular to North Americans.

I did not include Grappa although I could have as this is also a clear liqueur that is stored in the same place where the above are found in the refrigerator but this is not made from fruit but the remaining pomace left in the barrel after the free run juice is racked to make the real good wine. This is the bottom of the barrel so to speak. So I excluded it. You have to like it for sure. Personally for me it’s like drinking something that is just alcohol.

Hope you like this brief explanation on those eaux de vies that are sitting by themselves in the fridge and usually only requisitioned for a couple of ounces by the kitchen to make a special dessert for the evening’s service. In fact few places on this side of the ocean carry any at all.


  1. hey steven, i am enlightened, as usual. I’m amazed that you came up with such a thorogh explanation. It gives me an idea for a post…I once had a young pharmaceutical rep playing big shot. He tried to keep up with one of my doctors who was a connosieur of fine grappa (if there is such an animal!)… anyway, he called me the next day, half dead, asking “what the hell was that stuff!?!?”a quick question appropriate for this time of year. Technically, is limoncello an eaux de vies?Keep on Truckin’,mtw

  2. Mike…although limoncello is kept right alongside the eaux de vies in the fridge it does not have the water colour of an eau de vie. It would be more classified like cassis is which is a fruit based liqueur. That would be my take on it anyway. That is quite popular as well.Worked in an Italian restaurant where the owner would gratuitously give a shot to special customers at the end of their meal as a thank you. Thanks Mike for all your great comments.

  3. yeah we had some of that stuff at wine traing……ghastly stuff…..yuk yuk yuk….

  4. Manuel…it really is awful isn’t it? I think you have to grow up with it and drink it at home at the dinner table with dads and uncles to acquire any taste for it.

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