Thursday, December 20, 2012

Porse Snaps - Chaparral Extract in a Bottle ?

Yes Yes Yes, I know, what in the world are you talking about ? My wife and I were invited over to friend's house last Sunday afternoon for Dinner. They live in an charming old world styled apartment house which reminds me of Salzburg Austria from the moment you walk into the Court Entrance door and walk down the corridor and up the staircase to their place on the third floor. The artistry, decor and architecture all fit perfectly with images otherwise seen in Barvaria, Prague or any quaint old world Austrian city. I was introduced at meal time to a liqueur called Porse Snaps (pronunciation of this product name sounds like "Porsche Schnapps" in the Scandinavian accent). Northern Europe (especially Dänemark -Denmark) produces all manner of flavoured Schnapps from any and all herbs and/or fruits. This particular Porse Snaps comes from a plant which grows along streams or found along or in bogs. The spirit is made from the extracted essential oils of the plant leaves in a neutral spirit which is called Brøndum or Vodka. Many essential oil tinctures for herbal medicine are often made in the very same way. In fact the history of elixirs (Liqueurs) made by Monks in ancient Monasteries for Europe's Nobel Elites for centuries is what actually gave us all the many famous well known liqueurs we enjoy today. But now what about this plant Bog Myrtle or Sweet Gale ?

Photo credit: Roger Darlington - Manchester UK
Bog Myrtle, Sweet Gale (Myrica gale)
Myrica gale is found throughout northern and western Europe and North America. It can be collected in Forested woodlands or heathlands near streams or bogs (Fens). It is related to a familiar plant from California's chaparral plant community called Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica), which is also aromatic and sweet when it's leaves or berries are crushed. 
Interesting when you become intrigued with a subject and start digging into the historicity of the subject and it's importance to Nature as well as countless other usages. Interestingly Bog Myrtle can grow in inter-tidal zones like estuaries where log jams are washed down from higher elevations for the plant to get a foot hold. Did you know that Sweet Gale or Bog Myrtle is a favourite food of Beaver ? Well neither did I. These low estuary beaver dams can be found in the inter-tidal zone if sufficient numbers of Sweet Gale plant can be found. These Beaver ponds may be submerged at high tide, but retain and hold water at low tide allowing enough deep water levels to provide a refuge for fish, which includes juvenile Salmon where the water may be too deep for predatory wading birds who make their home in the estuary. Hence the presence of Bog Myrtle or Sweet Gale, which encourages Beaver Dam Habitat may inadvertently create and enhance Salmon recruitment scenario.

Now back to the Liqueur, Porse Schnapps. Incredibly a person with enough know how and ingredients can quite possibly create their own versions of this Schnapps. Often other ingredients are used in the recipes. That's why different brands offer unique flavours. One of the most popular is the Aalborg Snaps which is made from fresh Danish Sweet Gale or Bog Myrtle, and further spiced with Rosemary, Sherry, and Oak. A number of other medicinal herbs have also been used along with or independently from Sweet Gale to create their own unique Snaps or Schnapps. St John's wort is just another one of these plants. Basically essences from these plants singly or together in any combination can be cut up finely and put into a large Mason Jar and then a neutral Schnapps (like Brøndum or Vodka) may be poured into the Jar and then tightly sealed and aged for a few weeks to six months. Isn't it incredible the amount of creations and recipes that can be discovered and invented ? This now takes me back to my imaginary experience with essence of Chaparral while I enjoyed sipping this beverage along with a Carlsberg Beer.
Pacific Wax Myrtle
Myrica californica
There are a number of Riparian and Chaparral plant fragrances that came to my mind as I sipped this liqueur. The foremost being Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica), Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis), Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis), California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), and even a Mediterranean native Rockrose (Cistaceae Family). All these have a pleasant fragrant, sometimes even pungent order when their foliage is crushed during a hike in Chaparral or Riparian Habitat treks. So can any of you Californian's imagine a pleasant liqueur made from the essences of these native plants of the Chaparral plant community ? 
Spice Bush
(Calycanthus occidentalis)
Okay, neither could I at first, but the flavour was incredibly refreshing and clean. Not at all sticky or syrupy sweet. But now think of the possibilities. If you could experiment with any native California Chaparral plants and have a clear safe knowledge of their past and present usages, certainly a California Schnapps would not be out of the question. Add some Chaparral plant spice essences from the above listings or others of similar safe aromatic quality and you may just invent the first southwestern Schnapps. Anyone who has ventured on a day hike into the various California Chaparral plant communities will understand what i am talking about if you ever chance taking your first sip of Sweet Gale Schnapps (Porse Snaps). Every memory will coming flooding back with your first taste of Porse Snaps from a past pleasant moment spent on an outback trek for which you sought refuge on that hot day by hiking along a riparian habitat of a cool Cienege or Arroyo. It's incredible how many alcoholic beverages actually come from plants, but most folks don't really know what goes into their flavourite drinks. Watch the video below.


Reading References:

Fish and Wildlife Benefits of Shrub Swamp Communities

Banksavers Nursery: Riparian and Salmon Habitat Restoration
Facts about Bog-myrtle (Myrica gale) - Encyclopedia of Life
Aalborg Akvavit - Dänemark - Porse Snaps


  1. Sounds very very tasty:) In West Africa, we'd have these homemade type alcohols placed into other kinds of bottles. We drank this stuff called was like moonshine and I'm not sure there were any health benefits to it:) How are you doing? Things have been crazy here. I've been out in the field a lot and haven't had time to sit down and read blogs. Hope you are well and have a lovely finish to this year.

    1. Yeah the drink is quite interesting. If you tasted it, you'd definitely know what I'm talking about. Ponche sounds like the EverClear sugarcane alcohol they sell down in Mexico. Maybe it's Ponche Crema ? That's from Venezuela.

      My wife and I saw the latest episodes to a British show played here Called "A Place in the Sun" , but the newer version is "A Place in the Winter Sun". It's about British couples looking to buy property or a home in warmer climates like around the Mediterranean. Countries like Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco and the Canary Islands. They showed Tenerife and it got out hearts going. We really want to go back, but saving for the States next year. I love that place. It's the only other place on the planet I could truly consider home.

  2. manish kumar verma:

    "Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post."

    Yeah sure Manish, no problem. Oh by the way, I just deleted your spammer link under your phony comment. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.



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