For the locals of Ibiza, a life without Hierbas, Ibiza’s local liquor, is quite simply unimaginable! Here we look at what it is, and where you can find the real stuff. Hierbas (pronounced yerra-bas) has been a part of Ibiza history and tradition for centuries. First brewed in a simple medicinal form by monks in the Middle Ages, it began to be produced as a recreational drink in the 1800s. It has a distinctive taste and aroma, and is made with a combination of the extracts and flavours of a variety of plant that contain aniseed. The colour is usually somewhere between amber and green. The addition of herbs such as fennel, thyme and rosemary gave it its name. Originally used as a digestion aid, it is now much more of an indulgence, to be relished and enjoyed before, during or after a meal. Don’t be surprised to see some Ibicencans taking a chupito (shot) of hierbas with their breakfast! Many families here brew their own hierbas, with recipes handed down from generation to generation, all with their own unique twist. But it’s rare that you will find anyone to share their recipes with you, this is a closely guarded family secret!
Nearly every single bar and restaurant on the island stocks hierbas, and many offer it as a complimentary after dinner drink. It can be served in a brandy glass over ice (con hielo), or as a chupito in a shot glass. The herbal infusions mean that its light and tasty, and unlikely to cause a huge hangover the next day. Many bars, particularly traditional Ibicencan style ones, brew their own. You can see this often placed on the bar in a large glass bottle filled with sprigs of fennel or rosemary. To try some authentic Hierbas, we recommend popping in to one of the below establishments:
Bar Anita, San Carlos: Opposite the Church as you head towards Aguas Blancas
Pension Las Tres Golondrinas, Platja d’Es Figueral
San Juan Markets, San Juan, every Sunday
You can also buy a souvenir bottle to take home and enjoy after your holiday. Visit one of the many ‘bodegas’, dedicated shops selling all different types of alcohol. The most famous brand is Mari Mayans, who have been producing hierbas for centuries, but there are several other makes to choose from. The average price of a litre bottle is around 10-15 euros. Remember you will need to place this in your suitcase as it exceeds the limit for liquids in hand luggage! There are also a few products containing hierbas which also make excellent gifts or keepsakes of your time in Ibiza such as perfumes, soaps and gels, all with the distinctive hierbas aroma.
You can also make it too, so why not give it a go? Experimentation is the fun part. Find a large, sterilised bottle with a good stopper, drop in your own combination of the fresh herbs, fill it up with anise, then leave it to ferment for around six months. Once opened, strain it into new bottles and serve with ice. Salut!