A Mediterranean specialty, ratafia is a sweet, aromatic drink that is meant to be sipped before a meal as an aperitif. Traditionally red-wine-based, ratafias are made by infusing alcoholic beverages with seasonal fruits and spices. Variations are numerous and in this nonalcoholic rendition, pomegranate juice — a wonderfully flavorful and healthy alternative to wine — is used as the base.
If you can’t find a sweetened pomegranate juice such as Pom Wonderful, you’ll need to add a touch of sugar to taste while simmering. A 32-ounce bottle will provide the perfect amount per person, but if you think your ratafia will prove a particular hit, or you’re expecting extra guests, you can certainly double the recipe. Keeping the vanilla bean whole will allow you to use it for another purpose after it has dried.
One 32-ounce bottle sweetened pomegranate juice
1 whole vanilla bean, uncut
1 small orange or clementine, cut into pieces, pulp and skin included
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1. In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit, uncovered, for 2 hours or until the ratafia is at room temperature.
2. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a glass container (or the original juice bottle) fitted with a funnel and chill. Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Serve well-chilled in port or juice glasses.