Chestnut Herbal School

Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

Three glass bottles of spiced hawthorn pear persimmon brandy with orange ribbons.

Bent over the moist earth, we gathered up the crimson and golden fruit into our hungry bags, chatting about life as old friends will, with meandering topics and understood nuances. Picking through the fallen leaves and occasional thorn, our bags grew plump with the fallen medicinal jewels, soon to be infused in a seasonal libation: my spiced hawthorn pear persimmon brandy. A curious passerby interrupted our chatter, inquiring about the fruit we were harvesting. 

A woman gathering hawthorn fruit.

A handful of crataegus fruit.

My dear friend, more patient than I, spun the whole tale, from the identity of the trees we crouched under, to the future of our cache, which was to involve honey, brandy, and spirits.

Our guest revealed that she had wondered what kind of trees grew in this grove for almost a decade; she had danced naked under their pendulous branches in the springtime when the hawthorns were adorned with creamy buzzing blossoms. Perhaps one might be surprised upon hearing such a story, but we were near Asheville, so we soaked in this tidbit with cheer and took it in stride. Personally, I am happy to hear about anyone dancing under trees, and what better place to strip, than under a sacred grove of hawthorns on high in the craggies (Craggy is an Appalachian term for a rocky place).

Colorful autumn leaves in the mountains.

Earlier that morning I had visited the farmers market and bought some pears from a local fruit and humor expert, Bill Whipple (pictured here). When I returned home, I just knew the craggy hawthorns needed to meet his bronze pears — in some brandy, of course. Then the persimmons chimed in: we want in on this action, too. Hence the inspiration for the recipe, representing this year’s incarnation of fall in the mountains.

Bill Whipple holds a large, pear-shaped cardboard sign that says "Pear to be Different".

Fresh pears used in Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy.

are small thorny trees in the rose family, which bear fruits resembling wee apples.  It is estimated that there are anywhere between 150 to 1,000 species in the hawthorn genus (Crataegus). The reason for such a wide discrepancy in the species count is due to hawthorns’ proclivity for interspecies relations, resulting in confusing hybrids and murky species delineation. Most botanists do not bother keying out or identifying hawthorn to species, due to rampant hybridization. Thankfully, proper species identification is not necessary, as all hawthorn berries are edible and medicinal, with a long history of use in Europe, North America, and Asia. The berries have been eaten everywhere it grows, and it has been a staple famine food, seeing many peoples over lean winters.

White and yellow hawthorn flowers bloom over bright green hawthorn leaves.

The Chinese have used their local hawthorn species as a heart remedy, with recorded uses dating to the seventh century. Western herbalists use hawthorn as a remedy for hypertension, atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, and angina pectoris. Ample literature exists on hawthorn’s use as a cardiotonic, with its wide variety of flavonoids present in the fruit, flowers and leaves. The flowers and berries are also used for more energetic heart maladies – grief and loss. I prefer to use the flowers in these situations, as they carry lightness and hope. Hawthorn is a food herb and thus can be ingested in a wider variety of mediums than most herbs. Tea and tincture are classics, but people also make honey, jam, syrup, cordials, elixirs, and vinegar from the fruit. Hawthorn-infused honey is a beautiful rose color and quite fruity and pleasant.

Most of the traditional recorded use of hawthorn by Native Americans centers on its use as a digestive tonic for various gastrointestinal maladies, such as diarrhea, dysentery, and bloating. The bark and branchlets are more astringent (puckery) than the flowers and fruit, and thus have been used to slow diarrhea and excessive menstrual bleeding. The thorns were used as a lancing tool for boils and the Okanagan would place a thorn into an arthritic area, and ignite the distal end, letting the thorn burn down to the embedded point. This painful remedy would apparently cause a scab to form, but clear the afflicted area from arthritic achiness.

Hawthorn fruit during the washing process.

The folklore around hawthorn’s magic is especially rich in Europe, with admonishments to not cut the tree, except during the springtime—the trunk is used for a maypole in Beltane dances and the flowering branches are adornment for home and maiden alike. The trees are associated with fairies and seen as a portal to the otherworld. Hawthorn branches have been placed over the threshold as protection from malevolent energies in Europe. The Iroquois used a decoction as a protection against the personal physical manifestations of witchcraft.

Hawthorn fruit during the washing process.

Hawthorn trees can often be found in young woods, hedges, and cow fields. Look for the thorns and little red fruits. The leaves are variable, but are often wedge-shaped, with teeth and straight veins. Some hawthorns have slightly lobed leaves. The small trees are often planted as ornamentals for their showy flowers and fruit. In addition, they possess a suitable stature for small urban spaces. It goes without saying (so why I am writing this?!) that you should be 100% positive of your identification before you harvest the fruit. Ask your local botanist, herbalist, extension agent, arborist, or pagan for some identification tips.

Ingredients for Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy.

Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy Recipe

Delicious when sipped on its own, or added to warmed apple cider and served with a cinnamon stick and thin slices of pear. I highly recommend accompanying the brandy with a nibbling plate of pomegranate seeds and cacao nibs.
Course Beverage
Yield 0.5 gallon


  • Food processor or blender
  • Double boiler or crockpot with lid
  • Cheesecloth or cotton t-shirt
  • Gallon glass jar or several smaller mason jars


  • 1.75 liters brandy - The big bottle.
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon cardamom seeds - Decorticated (no pods).
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 pears
  • 1 persimmon
  • 3 cups hawthorn berries - Or half the amount of dried hawthorn.
  • ½ cup honey


  • Coarsely chop the pear and persimmon and place them in a food processor. You may need to remove the peel of the persimmon if it’s especially astringent. If you are working with fresh hawthorns throw them into the food processor whole with the other fruit. Coarsely blend the fruit in the food processor and add to a gallon glass jar (or several smaller mason jars). If you are working with dried hawthorn place them in the jar directly now.
  • Add all of the other herbs and brandy and let sit for 2 to 4 days. If you are in a pinch, place all of the ingredients (except the honey) in a double boiler or crockpot, with the lid on, and simmer at the lowest heat for 5 hours.
  • When perfect synergy has been achieved, strain through a cloth and wring out all the brandy with your hands. A clean older cotton tee shirt with a loose weave works well. Another option is the tighter-weave cheesecloth sold for cheese making (regular cheesecloth is too porous). You will probably need to strain out several batches to be able to effectively wring out the brandy from the pulp.
  • Slightly heat the strained brandy to dissolve the honey and stir well.
  • Bottle the infused brandy and label.
  • You can compost the remaining slurry of herbs and fruit, or add it to apple cider and warm slightly. The slurry will have absconded with some of the brandy, so the cider infusion will have a kick, and be for adult palettes only.
Keyword Brandy, Hawthorn, Pear, Persimmon
Tried this recipe or have questions?Leave a comment!

Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy on a table outdoors with fresh pears.

I enjoy this brandy sipped on its own, or added to warmed apple cider and served with a cinnamon stick and thin slices of pear. I highly recommend accompanying the brandy with a nibbling plate of pomegranate seeds and cacao nibs.

Two steaming cups of Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy.

Meet the Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea:

Juliet Blankespoor

JULIET BLANKESPOOR is the founder, primary instructor, and Creative Director of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, an online school serving thousands of students from around the globe. She's a professional plant-human matchmaker and bonafide plant geek, with a degree in botany and over 30 years of experience teaching and writing about herbalism, medicine making, and organic herb cultivation. Juliet’s lifelong captivation with medicinal weeds and herb gardening has birthed many botanical enterprises over the decades, including an herbal nursery and a farm-to-apothecary herbal products business. 

These days, she channels her botanical obsession through her writing and photography in her online programs, on her personal blog Castanea, and in her new book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies. Juliet and her family reside in a home overrun with houseplants and books in Asheville, North Carolina.

Interested in becoming a contributor?


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47 thoughts on “Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy

  1. I made this, but mistakenly left the herbs to steep in the brandy for 2 weeks instead of a few days. It tastes ok, but I’m wondering if this amount of time will make the herbal medicinals too intense.

  2. Becky hutcheson says:

    I wondered if more medicinal properties would be extracted from the hawthorn berries if they were to stay in longer?
    2-4 days sounds so short!
    But I have limited experience;)
    Thank you!

    • Melissa Quercia says:

      Hi, Becky! Yes, more medicinal properties would be extracted from the hawthorn berries if they were steeped longer than 2-4 days, but then you will be moving into the category of making a tincture. Since this beverage is for sipping, we don’t want it to be as strong as a tincture because it will be consumed in larger amounts than a tincture. I hope that helps clarify this for you. Feel free to let us know if you still have questions about it. Enjoy making the recipe!

  3. Hello!
    Could you consider adding a “print recipe” link to your wonderful recipes? I did my normal right click and print thing on the recipe image, and made the mistake of walking away after I did so and ended up printing the entire blog post! So…that was a mistake on my part and a lot of wasted paper….ouch. I then highlighted the recipe and got a nice print but I so appreciate the “print recipe” function as they usually come out so much more beautifully. Hopefully I didn’t miss that option on your blog?

  4. Hello Juliette,

    I don’t drink alcohol so i don’t know what is the way of having this 🙂 is it like this, 2, 3 ounces of it in a glass or mixed like your proposed with other things or you add some hot water to it .. ?!

    Also, i imagine you can keep this on shelf ? how long ?

    ** i would give this as a ‘digestif’ ( cordial ) .

    • This is mainly an herbal cocktail, so you would drink it any way you would drink brandy! It’s good on its own, but if you want to dilute the alcohol, you can add it to warm apple cider. It should be pretty shelf stable at room temperature as long as the brandy contains at least 30% alcohol.

      • Hi Sara
        Thank you for your reply

        … as i don’t drink. I don’t know how you take Brandy usually .
        Is it one ounce straight in a glass ?!

        • I do like drinking this cordial in a small glass! Brandy has a lower alcohol content than other liquors, and it will be further diluted by the herbs and honey, so it’s not as strong as something like, say, vodka. An ounce sounds about right to me, but there’s really not one right way to enjoy it.

          • Sweet ! Thanks ..

            * found a 40% Alcohol (Brandy)
            And pimped the recipe a bit 🙂
            Will make beautiful gifts in 2 weeks

  5. A couple of clarifications, please. Is the measurement for ginger that’s fresh and grated, or ground dried ginger? Do you recommend Ceylon cinnamon sticks, as opposed to the cinnamon sticks generally found in most stores? Length of stick recommended, so I know if I needed more of less of short or long cinnamon sticks, please?
    Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try this for the holidays!

    • Hi Margot, this recipe is actually for fresh grated ginger. I’ll go back and make that more clear, thank you for bringing that to my attention! For the cinnamon stick, you can use any kind, so long as it smells good to you. Most cinnamon sticks we see are about the length of a finger, and that’s what I would recommend.

  6. Cathryn Kasper says:

    Dear Juliet,
    When I first moved to the Northwest, I discovered the beautiful Hawthorne that the bees love so much in springtime. I had read of its medicinal value, but not until your recipe have I found a good way to use it. Thank you so much! I am blessed by the many Hawthornes that grow in our woods and by your wisdom!

    • Hi Ellery,

      If you’re making a tincture, syrup, honey, brandy, etc. theres no need to remove the seeds. If you’re eating the fruit, you can eat little seeds but you might want to spit out the bigger seeds.

  7. How do you think this would turn out with whiskey or bourbon? I made it with brandy last year (yummmmm) but was thinking of switching it up.

  8. This is confusing me. It says add fruit and spices to vessel and sit three to four days then goes right to telling a short cut using crock pot but not what to do after letting fruit sit in jars for days? Doesn’t the fruit rot? Do I then add the bendy directly after three to four days with the honey and strain as described?

  9. Sarah Clarkson says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe, Juliet! This stuff is keeping me warm up here in Quebec. I used the slurry to make an amazing mulled wine, along with elderberries left over from making syrup, some bayberry leaves, citrus, and some extra cinnamon. Hope you’re well!

  10. i just pressed this and i can’t believe how good it is! i halved the recipe and now i wish i did the whole thing instead. thank you!

  11. I just love this. And yes, your writing is so fresh, vibrant and heartfelt. I’m going to make this for my friend for her birthday in January. Thank you so much.

  12. Simply stated, “beautiful writing”. I’ve grown, harvested, used and loved my herbs and plants but to read your blog was like breathing brand new life into old, old ways. Thank you for the motivating and uplifting words.

  13. Thank you for sharing about this enchanting day of gathering, processing and flowing with all the entertainment around our time in the woods!
    Looking forward to squishing and squeezing all the yumminess from the jar and bottle up the brandy to share with others in this winters season coming forward here in the chilly mountains of NC! Here’s to more jaunts in the woods!

  14. Danielle Eavenson says:

    YES!! i can’t WAIT to make it. Thank you, Juliet. I love the way you honored the sweetness of Hawthorn and the picture of the naked dancer prancing through the forest!

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