Pacharan or Patxaran Liqueur from Basque Part of Spain

Digestif Liqueur Made From Blackthorn or Sloe Bush Berries

Zoco brand of Pacharan
ErikHK/Wikimedia Commons

Patxaran in Basque or pacharan in Spanish is a liqueur that is made from blackthorn or sloe bush berries. Called endrinas in Spanish, the berries grow wild in Navarra, the Basque region in the north of Spain.

Pacharan is a popular liqueur all over Spain. It has an intense, fruity aroma, and on the palate, it should have a fresh and long-lasting flavor. It is a reddish color and is 20 to 30 percent alcohol by volume.

Sloe Bush Berries

Sloe berries, classified as Prunus spinosa in the rose family, are the size and shape of a plum. They are black-blue with a purple-blue waxy bloom and are harvested in the fall. The fruit is suitable for preserves, but tart and astringent unless it is picked after the first few days of autumn frost. In large amounts, the fruits can be toxic as there is hydrogen cyanide in the fruit. Sloe berries are also used for making sloe gin. Other closely related fruits include plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, and almonds.

History of Pacharan

Although pacharan has gained in popularity in the last century, it is a very old drink, dating back to the Middle Ages and now has an official "Denomination of Origin" as of 1988. This means that pacharan is part of a regulatory classification system that designates the Navarra region as a production area.

According to the Consejo Regulador de Denominacion, Pacharan Navarro, the regulating council for the designation of pacharan, the liqueur was served at royal weddings in Navarra as early as the 14th century and was recognized for its medicinal properties by Blanca de Navarra, a queen of Navarra in the Middle Ages.

How to Make Pacharan

You can make your own pacharan with ripe sloe fruit, anise liquor, some garnishes, and several months to spare. The process to make pacharan is fairly simple.

  1. Fill a bottle about one-third with very ripe sloes.
  2. Pour semisweet spirit with anise flavor into the bottle.
  3. Add a cinnamon stick or coffee beans, if desired.
  4. Seal the bottle and let stand for 2 to 4 months (or longer, if desired). Occasionally shake the bottle.

How To Serve It

Serve it cold, about 45 degrees, in a brandy snifter without ice, as it would dilute the liqueur too much as it melts. It is best served at the end of a meal, as a digestif. Pacharan is said to have medicinal properties that help with digestion.

Where to Buy It

Pacharán is available in supermarkets and liquor stores everywhere in Spain. It is available in liquor stores in the U.S. that have specialty or international sections.  First sold in 1956, the oldest commercial brand is Zoco, founded by the family of Ambrosio Velasco, who had been producing patxaran in the Viana area since 1816. This brand is now owned by Diego Zamora Group.

Other brands are Etxeko, Kantxa, Barañano Atxa, Las Endrinas, Basarana, Berezko, Usua, La Navarra, and Baines.

Unlike wine, it does not age well. It is best to drink it within two to three years of bottling.