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Spirit drinks in Mallorca
Mallorca is well known for its wines and oils, but also for its spirit drinks, certified by the Government of the Balearic Islands: Palo de Mallorca and Herbes de Mallorca.
Palo de Mallorca
Palo de Mallorca is a spirit obtained by the maceration and/or infusion of cinchona bark and gentian root (gentina lutea) with sugar, caramelized sucrose and ethyl alcohol. Its name is derived from cinchona bark (also known as palo quina), which originally came from South America and became known in Spain thanks to the Countess of Chinchón.
It was used as a remedy for malaria. The islands had many marshy coastal areas and these were an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes that gave people what were known as "fevers". As a result, the quinine and gentian extracts were readily accepted, introduced by traders who visited the islands to exchange spices and other products as a cure for the fevers. In time, to improve the unpleasant taste that these extracts had, concentrated sugars from grapes, dried figs and carob beans were added. These sugary extracts were reheated to make a concentrate and, as a result, the sugar became caramelized, growing darker in colour, adding a taste that masked the original bitterness. This syrup had a relatively short useful life as the product fermented very easily, and so alcohol was added. That is how Palo was created. Palo is very dark (almost black), dense, thick and viscose. Initially it has a predominantly sweet taste that is immediately following by an alcohol burn, rounded off by combined bitter flavours from the plant extracts and caramelization of the sugar.
Herbes de Mallorca
The Arabs discovered and promoted efforts to distil alcohol back in the 9th century. In Mallorca, in the late 13th century, the native islander Ramon Llull made significant contributions to the distillation process. At the end of the 19th century, when the manufacture and consumption of herbes became more popular and more widespread, several distilleries were opened that still exist today. In the regulation containing stipulations on this geographical designation, Herbes de Mallorca is defined as an aniseed-flavoured liqueur mainly made with different aromas extracted from local plants like fennel, rosemary, lemon verbena, camomile, lemon balm and orange and lemon trees. Depending on the sugar and alcohol content, we can distinguish between three different types of Herbes de Mallorca: Herbes dolces, Herbes mesclades and Herbes seques.