After a rich and satisfying meal, central European gourmets savour an eaux de vie, literally meaning water of life to aid the digestion of food.
Alcohol in low concentrations helps break down low-density cholesterol and, in the stomach, breaks down fats, accelerating digestion. The accent here is on moderation. More than one or two eaux-de-vie after a meal along with wine would certainly be too much!
Popular Eaux de Vie.
The countries of central Europe from France through to Slovakia have a long-standing history of fruit distillation and derive their eau-de-vie from all manner of fruits, some of the most popular being cherry, apple and plum often sold as slivovice in eastern Europe.
Hungarian Barack Palinka (Apricot brandy) is arguably the best of all and if you buy a bottle of Zwack you may not want to try any other! Barack palinka exudes perfumery apricot aromas that only can be obtained from properly ripened fruit. The distillation is an art that Hungarians seem to have been able to perfect, at least for apricot. The fruit, according to legend, originated in Armenia and to this day, this country still produces the best, but rather than distilling the fermented juice, Armenians dry it.
Poire Williams (pear brandy) are excellent and can be enjoyed on their own, in coffees, fruit salads, pastries, and even as a stomach settling medication after a particularly 'greasy' meal i.e. deep fried foods and/or cream rich pastries.
The distillation process is carried out in alembic copper stills where ripe fruit is crushed and fermented and then distilled with around 22lbs of fruit needed to produce just one litre of spirit with an ABV of 40%. Most are a clear liquid often served in a snifter, best enjoyed at a cold temperature.