Latgale is a historical region located in Western Latvia. It takes about a quarter of country’s area and is famous for its well-developed moonshining. Local winemakers are the ones who invented the recipe of an infusion, which perfectly recreates (according to them) the taste, smell, and color of real cognacs and requires only a few weeks to prepare just from usual moonshine with no maturing in oak barrels. This beverage is called Latgale cognac, and it’s an unofficial Latvia’s national drink.
I’ll remind you just in case that according to the international law, cognac is a grape distillate aged no less than 2 years in oak barrels in the French region of Charente and Charente-Maritime, made following a very strict technology. Grape distillates from other countries are called brandy. Latgale cognac doesn’t fit any of these categories.
- Moonshine (vodka, alcohol 45-50%) – 3 liters
- Oak chips (or medium baked chips) – 2 tbsp
- Sugar – 3 tsbp
- Cloves – 3 buds
- Coriander – a pinch
- Nutmeg – 0.5 grams
The traditional recipe also requires 50% ABV double-distilled moonshine, but you can go with vodka or watered down alcohol. The alcohol base should be of high quality; otherwise, you won’t be able to recreate the cognac aroma.
Oak bark can be purchased in a pharmacy, but using oak chips is more preferable—just soak them in water and dry beforehand. It’s important to not go too far with spices, especially nutmeg so that the infusion remains moderately spicy.
Latgale Cognac Recipe
- Boil oak chips (water should be above the oak by 2-3 cm) and leave it for 10 minutes. Pour off the decoction, rinse with cold water and then dry it. Boiling removes the excess tannins which might give an unpleasant taste to your Latgale cognac.
- Dissolve sugar in 100 ml of moonshine.
- Put all ingredients in a jar for infusion. Pour in the moonshine mixed with sugar and stir. Screw on a lid. Let it infuse in a dark place with room temperature for 10-30 days.
- After 10 days of maturing, you can taste it once every 2 days. When the drink will become auburn, have a persistent aroma and favorable taste, you can strain the Latgale cognac. You can’t predict the exact period of maturing as it depends on the oak chips used.
Warning! Longer maturing makes the alcohol base absorb too many tannins, that’s why you shouldn’t overdo this process when using bark or chips.
- Bottle the infusion for storing and hermetically seal it. Leave them in a cold dark place for 2 weeks (or up to 6 months) to improve the taste. Shelf life is up to 5 years.