Ratifia (“ra-ti-FEE-a”), an almond-scented wine fortified with sweet wine and sugar, spans Charleston’s three centuries of imbibing. Although it’s all but vanished from Lowcountry tables, the Charleston Museum has a bottle of ratifia that was made in the 1880s and rebottled and corked in the 1950s.

This version of ratifia (also called ratafia or noyau) is flavored with the kernels of peaches; it comes from my earliest Carolina source, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who recorded it in her mid-eighteenth century diary. The older spelling persists in Charleston.

Escoffier splashes ratifia over freshly sliced fig halves for a perfect summer dessert. I add a few drops to custards, especially for peach ice cream, or drink it chilled, like sherry bolo, on a sultry afternoon. It is also added to Champagne punches, as follows.


  • 75 (about 2 ounces) peach kernels (about ½ bushel peaches to remove kernels)
  • 2 cups brandy
  • ½ cup sweet wine, preferably a muscat
  • ½ cup orange flower water
  • ½ cup sugar


Mix all the ingredients together in a covered quart jar and leave in the sun for 6 weeks, shaking the jar every day. Strain and rebottle.