Pacharán, the traditional sloe liqueur from Navarra, is regarded as both a sensual delight and as beneficial for the stomach and nervous system! Some resourceful medical practitioners claim that when consumed in moderation (of course), it is effective in preventing heart attacks and arteriosclerosis.
Originally, this national liqueur of Navarra was confined to farms, where it was usually made by the grandmother of the family. The blue-black sloes (pacharanes or endrinas) which are the fruit of the blackthorn tree, were picked in late summer and simply immersed in spirits. Later on, sloe-gatherers, or pacharaneros, began selling the fruit in towns as well: the hoteliers rolled up their sleeves and very soon the liqueur was also being dispensed in city taverns.
Pacharán is very simple to make at home: sweet or semisweet spirits, with a slight flavor of aniseed, are poured into a bottle one-third full of very ripe sloes. A cinnamon stick or a few coffee beads can also be added, according to taste. The liqueur must then be left to stand for two to four months, shaking occasionally to enable the flavor of the sloes to permeate the spirits evenly. Villagers often stand the bottles on south-facing window sills to accelerate the process of making the pacharán.
With the popularity of this Navarra specialty throughout Spain, various brands of industrially produced Pacharán have appeared on the market. Their alcohol content is between 20 & 30% alcohol/volume, and no artificial flavorings or colorings are permitted.
The level of production has increased to such an extent that the sloe crop growing wild in Navarra is no longer adequate, and some of the fruit required has to be imported. Since 1992, blackthorn plantations have been established specially for the purpose of pacharán production.
Pacharán is best enjoyed as a digestif after a meal, at a temperature of between 37 and 45ºF (2 to 7ºC). The bottle should be well chilled; passionate devotees of pacharán strongly advise against ice cubes in the glass, as these dilute the liqueur too much. In an era of mixer drinks, a number of long drinks based on pacharán have become established – sloe liqueur is excellent mixed with orange or pineapple juice, and especially good with a short of sherry.