Posted by: nancycurteman | June 19, 2015

Mysterious Izarra

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thIzarra is a sweet liqueur made in Bayonne in the French Basque Country. It is a popular liqueur with a mysterious history. Alchemists are credited with the original creation of the liqueur because they accidentally discovered extraction techniques while trying to convert base metals to gold. These alchemists gained the title of scientists because they developed the process of distillation, maceration, and blending. Soon monks refined the liqueur recipe in their effort to invent potions for long life and Izarra as we know it today, was born. Some creative individuals used liqueur recipes to create love potions to peddle to love crazed suitors. Joseph Grattau, a botanist, bought the recipe for the liqueur in the late 19th century and named it Izarra (Basque for “the star”).

There are two varieties of Izarra—yellow and green. Yellow Izarra is created from 32 secret herbs and has an almond flavor. Green Izarra is created from 48 secret herbs and has a peppermint taste. In addition to the herbs used in production, both Izarras consist of alcohol distilled with herbal flavorings, a liquid created by soaking prunes and walnut shells in Armagnac; syrup of sugar and local acacia honey. Infusion is the process used to create herbal liqueurs. The infusionist places herbs in a container and pours hot alcohol over them. The liqueur rests for six months in barrels before it is bottled. Izarra like Chartreuse is still considered a medicinal herbal liqueur.

Izarra is ubiquitous in the French Basque Country. The Basque drink Izarra straight, on ice or in cocktails. They use it in chocolates, sauces and desserts. Characters in my novel, “Murder on the Seine,” learn about this mysterious liqueur.

Today the Izarra distillery is still located in Bayonne, on the river Adour, and is open to visitors.

More about the Basque Country:

Basque Country: The people and Culture
Basque Country: The Culture and The People
The Mystery of the Pear in the Bottle
What Do Ham, Chocolates and Bayonets Have in Common?


  1. If I ever find this, I’ll have to try some, for medicinal purposes only!


    • I like your style. Chartreuse is also great for “medicinal purposes” only.


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