An 'eau de vie' is a French expression that means 'water of life,' it is a clear, colourless fruit brandy that is produced by means of fermentation and double distillation. The fruit flavour is typically very subtle.
Eau-de-vie are typically not aged in wooden barrels; hence they are clear in colour. Eau de vie production starts with harvesting then gently crushing the fruit, inoculating with yeast, and fermenting the must for several weeks. The resulting fruit wine is then heated in a still and the vaporized alcohol is cooled back down into a liquid. The spirit is placed in a neutral container (steel or glass) for a few months. Finally, the spirit is mixed with water to arrive at the desired alcohol percentage and quickly bottled in order to preserve the freshness and aroma of the chosen fruit, and then sold.
Although this is the usual practice, some variations do exist, and some distillers age their products before bottling.
Some regularly available flavours are eau-de-vie de poire (pear), eau-de-vie de pomme (apple), eau-de-vie de mirabelle (yellow plum), and eau-de-vie de peche (peach). When made from pomace, it is called pomace brandy or marc.
The French apple flavoured spirit 'Calvados' is made by aging it in wooden barrels before bottling. Although eau de vie is a French term, similar distilled beverages are produced in other countries, for example; German Schnaps, Balkan Rakia, Romanian Tuica, Hungarian Palinka, Sri Lankan Coconut Arrack, and Georgian Chacha.
Serving preferences vary by individual, but here are some general guidelines:
Temperature: Eau-de-vie are usually served chilled.
Serving size: Usually served as a digestive. The typical serving size is 30-60mls, owing to the high alcohol content of the spirit and to the fact that it is typically drunk after a meal.
Glassware: Some connoisseurs recommend a tulip-shaped glass; others recommend a snifter glass.