Jacques Pépin Eats 7 Gin-Soaked Golden Raisins Every Night and Perhaps You Should, Too

The legendary chef gives us all a raisin to celebrate.

Jacques Pepin; gin-soaked raisins in a jar

Cedric Angeles

Jacques Pépin has always been something of a rebel. He moved to Paris at 17 to follow his then-unfashionable passion for working in restaurants. He left a robust career cooking for Charles de Gaulle and other heads of state to start from scratch in the "golden fleece" of America. He turned down a position cooking at the Kennedy-era White House so he could develop recipes for the masses at the Howard Johnson's chain of restaurants instead. And what's more — the culinary icon eats seven gin-soaked raisins every night rather than the generally-prescribed nine.

Pépin mentioned the raisin ritual to my colleague Hunter Lewis multiple times during a multi-hour cover shoot at his home in Connecticut — even pointing out the crock where he steeps the fruit — and it made such an impression that Hunter included it in his editor's letter for the July issue under the heading Four Lessons From Jacques: "Eat seven gin-soaked raisins every night for good health and longevity. Simply add your favorite gin and raisins to a jar, seal, and wait to eat them until they soften slightly."

(Other pearls include: "The first crêpe is always for the dog.” "His favorite knife? 'The sharp one!'" "A painting is never finished. It’s merely abandoned.")

Jacques Pépin's advice to Thomas Keller

"To be a good chef you have to be a good technician. To be a great chef you have to be a good technician, but you also have to have talent, and you have to have love."

— Jacques Pépin's advice to Thomas Keller

A raisin d'être

The drunken raisins, as they're often called, are generally touted as a folk remedy for arthritis or fibromyalgia pain or the key to longevity. While I've yet to find the origin, the method did find a spike in media ubiquity after a mention on Paul Harvey's wildly popular syndicated radio show in 1994, and again in 2004 when Teresa Heinz Kerry touted it along the trail for her husband John's presidential campaign and the topic of healthcare arose. Quoth the heiress, "You get some gin and get some white raisins — and only white raisins — and soak them in the gin for two weeks," she said. "Then eat nine of the raisins a day." 

The duration of the steep and time of consumption varied in the account of centenarian Covid and Spanish Flu pandemic survivor and morning raisin ritualist Lucia DeClerck, who told the New York Times in 2021 that her secret to making it to the age of 105 was "Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days," but the quantity of fruit remained the same. 

Book editor Rux Martin on working with Jacques Pépin

Here’s what Jacques has taught me: Do it now! If you ask him to provide a new recipe, you’ll get it within the hour. Questions about recipes? Instant answers, delivered with perfect precision, even as he prepares dinner for 1,500 people.

— Book editor Rux Martin on working with Jacques Pépin

This figure is reiterated by The People's Pharmacy pharmacologist Joe Graedon and medical anthropologist Terry Graedon's NPR-vetted publication, seen as the gold standard for alternative health information. In a story on the treatment, the statement "The 'dose' is nine (delicious) raisins daily" is followed by the logical query, "Why can’t you eat more than 9? What happens if you do eat more?" 

Their answer in part: "Please remember that these are not scientifically tested pharmaceuticals that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This is mostly trial and error and grandmothers’ wisdom at work. We do not think anything bad would happen if you ate 10 raisins … or even a handful. Whether 20 would work better (or less well) than 9 is anyone’s guess."

But fewer? Oh Jacques, you beautiful, eternal insurgent, you have made it to the age of 87, treasuring pleasure at every turn, so you must be doing something right. All the usual suspects (Snopes, the New York Times, Very Well Health) have debunked the method, saying that the quantity of any anti-inflammatory or otherwise beneficial properties in either the gin or the raisins was too minimal to have any real effect on health — beyond it a possible placebo effect — but that doesn't mean it doesn't work in a way. Having a daily dose of anticipated delight has got to do something positive for the psyche.

But what's more: I trust Jacques Pépin. He cheated death and emerged from a literally back-breaking 1974 car crash with a new lease on life. He said yes to risk at every turn and became one of the most trusted and downright beloved culinary figures of all time. Nearing 90, he's found a new wave of social media fame (a TikTok video of him making crepes on Food & Wine's feed has over a million views and his own channels regularly amass tens if not hundreds of thousands of views). Just in the last few weeks, he's published a new book, Jacques Pépin's Cooking My Way: Recipes and Techniques for Economical Cooking, that he both wrote and illustrated. If he says to eat seven gin-soaked raisins a night, that is precisely what I will do. There's no raisin to doubt that there's wisdom to it.

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