Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

Apricot-Crdal-art - 6/30/00


"Apricot Cardamom Cordial" by Constance de LaRose.


NOTE: See also the files: cordials-msg, bev-distilled-msg, beverages-msg, p-bottles-msg, brewing-msg, spiced-wine-msg, Kiwi-cordial-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



(This is the documentation that Constance submitted for one of her entries

in the Artemisian A&S Contest in May 2000).



by Constance de LaRose




1.                      My mother loves apricots in any form but hates the taste of alcohol.  I wanted to try to create a cordial she would enjoy sipping.


2.     In an Internet discussion, it was argued that "liqueurs" were not used in a recreational manner during our time period and, therefore, should not be included in A&S competitions. They should also be discouraged at SCA activities as being post period.  The person saying this felt most strongly about those which were made with vodka because she said that vodka was neither created nor widely used until the post SCA period eras.  I wanted to see if I could find information to either prove or disprove these theories.




      On the subject of the use or existence of vodka in our time period:


The first place I checked was with the Vodka Distilleries themselves to see if any had a proven date of inception within or near that time period. Somewhat to my surprise, I found one.  Johannes Nolet founded the Ketel One Distillery in 1591 in Schiedem, Holland.  This distillery is still run today by the Nolet family. They distill their vodka from wheat and claim to be using, today, the same methods and ingredients used at the inception of the distillery.  They also have records of the founder being apprenticed and trained in the art by a master distiller in Lorraine, France.  Their records show that he spent 11 years learning the art of distilling alcohol from wheat.  When he was made a master distiller, his former master gave him a large copper kettle.  This kettle was a part of his very first task as an apprentice, that of watching "kettle #1".  When he returned home to Holland and chartered his own distillery, he named it "Ketel One" for that reason.[1]


On the subject of the existence of liqueurs (cordials) in our time period and their recreational (not strictly medicinal) uses:


a)                                                 In discussions with the current president of Ketel One, Phillip Nolet, he revealed that they still have a copy of the notebooks of the founder, Johannes Nolet.  These notebooks are the records of Johannes training and his later attempts, as a master distiller, to "create a cordial which will be as tasteful and as sought after as that of the Benedictine Abbies".[2]

b)                                                 I next checked the Oxford English Dictionary.  Liqueur is definitely a post-period word, not coming into use until the early 1700Ős.  However, the OED refers to the word "cordial" as an alternative to the word "liqueur" so I checked out that reference.  Under cordial, the OED says "a medicine, food, or beverage which invigorates the heart and stimulates the circulation; a comforting or exhilarating drink.  Aromatized and sweetened spirit, used as a beverage".  The earliest usage of the word that it shows is 1386 in writings by Chaucer.[3]

c)                                                 Gerard uses the word "cordial" in his Herbal, in reference to several of his listings, to refer to medicines which can be made of the plants he describes in combination with either aqua vitae or spirits.  His use of this word seems to be most prevalent when referring to those medicines that serve to either increase the appetite or assist in digestion. He recommends that such cordials be taken before, during, or after a meal in accordance with the effects of the plants used to flavor the spirits. In addition, he also states that "when measure is turned to excess É this excess dishonoreth Noblemen, beggereth the poor, and more have beene destroyed by surfeiting therewith, than by the sword".[4] A clear indication that cordials were used for more than medicinal purpose and often used recreationally to excess.


VODKA - As described earlier, vodka made from wheat is a late period spirit used as a base for cordials.  I purchased some Ketel One vodka to use as a base.


SUGAR - Sugar Cane has been known of and used for making refined sugar since at least Early Roman days when they called it Arundo Saccharina Indica because it was first known or brought from India.[5]


Likewise the process for creating sugar from sugar cane is described in GerardŐs Herbal (pg. 39).  Following this description, I purchased some sugar cane and cut it into one-inch lengths, which I then proceeded to quarter lengthwise.  Using a large bowl and a rock from the garden, I slowly crushed the cane pieces as much as I was able.  I then put the pieces and the juices into a pot of water, which I boiled for about 2 hours. At this time, I strained the mixture through an unbleached muslin bag to remove all of the reed pieces.  I then placed the liquid back in the pot and continued to boil it until it was very thick (almost like honey).  This was then poured into a glass bowl and left 3 days until it had totally dried out.  By turning the bowl over, I was able to remove the sugar mold, which I then placed into a mortar and pestle and ground into a usable form.

APRICOTS - Gerard describes this fruit tree in his herbal, giving reference to itŐs existence as early as Grecian times and quoting Galen on itŐs use.  He describes the fruit as being "wholesome for the stomacke" and recommend that they be used "before other meate (to) cause the other meates to passe downe the sooner".[6]

I have a friend who has an apricot tree in her yard. In the spring of 1999, I picked a bushel of apricots from that tree.  I peeled and stoned the fruit and froze it for later use.  These were the apricots used in this cordial.


CARDAMOM - Cardamom is also known as "Grains of Paradise" and was used as long ago as the Grecian Empire and known throughout Western Europe.  Gerard gives as one of their virtues "They also comfort and warme the weake, cold, and feeble stomacke É being drunk with Sacke."[7]


I purchased cardamom seeds from a local natural food store.




Using the techniques described for making tinctures by Culpeper, supplemented by lessons from Mistress Casamira Jawjalny OL, I prepared the cordial in the following manner:


2 cups Apricots, peeled & stoned, cut into quarters

2 cups Sugar

1/2 tsp. Cardamom seeds

2 cups Ketel One Vodka


Place all ingredients in a 1-quart glass jar with lid tightly fastened.  Use either a lid insert that has been treated with plastic or saran wrap over the top of the jar prior to sealing the lid to prevent the metal coming in contact with the vodka (the metal can add a bitter taste if in contact with the vodka).


Place the jar in the sunlight for 2 days and shake it in the morning and in the evening.


Then place the jar on a shelf in the dark for at least 6 months.


This particular cordial was left on the shelf for 8 months.


At the end of the steeping time, remove the contents of the jar and pour through an unbleached muslin bag to strain the liquid from the fruit and spices.  Because this cordial was made using frozen apricots, there was much more dissolution of the apricot pulp.  Therefore, it was necessary to strain the solution 6 consecutive times to remove all of the pulp and achieve a clear liquid.


The remaining liquid was then placed in bottles and corked to keep it fresh.




This is a pleasant tasting cordial that we have used as an aperitif or before dinner sipping drink.  It does seem to give some aid to digestion, especially if we are serving heavier meat courses.  My mother has tasted it and finds it enjoyable, though she says that she can still taste a bit of the alcohol.  On the other hand, she can taste the alcohol used in vanilla in fresh baked cookies so it is possible that this is the closest we can come to an alcoholic beverage that she will enjoy.


I also now have the information which I needed to prove that cordials (liqueurs) were used recreationally in our time period.


As a side benefit of that research, I had the pleasure of talking with the president of the Ketel One Distillary in Holland and he has promised to send me a photocopy of the notebook which the founder kept on his attempts to create a cordial as popular as Benedictine.  So soon I will have some actual period recipes for cordial with which to play.


A fun and informative project.




Mistress Casamira Jawjalny

      Personal Conversation


Phillip Nolet, President of Ketel One Distillery

      Personal Conversation


Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", Dover Publications    London  1633


Culpeper, Nicholas. "CulpeperŐs Complete Herbal", Foulsham & Co., London            1657


"Oxford English Dictionary", Oxford University Press,    London  1999


Copyright 2000 by Debbie Snyder, 4744 W. Crestmoor Ct, West Jordan, Ut  84088.

<LadyPDC at aol.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related

publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

[1] Personal conversations with Phillip Nolet, the current CEO of the Ketel One Distillery and head of the

Nolet Family.

[2] Read and translated to me over the telephone by Phillip Nolet, 11th generation descendant of the author.

[3] "Oxford English Dictionary"          Oxford University Press     London              Revised 1999

[4] Gerard, John                  "The Herbal or General History of Plants"                    1633

            Dover Publications                       pg. 884

[5] Gerard, John                  "The Herbal or General History of Plants"                    1633

            Dover Publications                       pg. 38

[6] Gerard, John                  "The Herbal or General History of Plants"                    1633

            Dover Publications                       pg. 1449

[7] Gerard, John                  "The Herbal or General History of Plants"                    1633

            Dover Publications                       pg. 1542

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org