Rose water is water that is scented and flavored with rose petals. It’s used in food and drink recipes, as a facial toner, to scent baths, and as a perfume. If you have a lot of roses, it’s easy to make homemade rose water. Here are two simple recipes to try.
Quick Rose Water Recipe
The quick and easy method is to steep rose petals in boiling water to make rose tea. In fact, you can make rose petal tea and drink it. Rose tea is made from entire rose buds, so it contains the nutrients found in the rose hips as well as the petals. Rose hips are very high in vitamin C, plus they contain vitamin B6 and vitamin E.
- Distilled water
Fresh roses work best because some volatile oils are lost when flowers dry. Make sure you are using clean roses, free of pesticide residue.
Rinse the roses under cool running water or else swish them in a cup of water to make certain they are clean.
If you only want rose water made from the petals, remove them from the flower.
- Place the rose petals into a pot. Add just enough distilled water to cover them. Don’t use tap water because it may be either acidic or alkaline and has the potential to change the color and aroma of the roses.
- Cover the pot and bring the contents to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Strain the mixture (cheesecloth is best, but a fine metal mesh strainer works) to remove the petals.
- Pour the rose water into a glass jar. Seal the jar. Once it cools to room temperature, refrigerate it.
Note: If you’re going to use the rose water for food or drinks, you can cook the rose petals with sugar and a minimum amount of water. This help preserve the mixture so it lasts much longer.
Distilled Rose Water
Boiling rose petals is quick and easy, but it’s not how rose water is made commercially. High quality rose water is distilled to capture only the volatile compounds responsible for a rose’s fragrance and flavor — its essence.
Home distillation is simple. You heat rose petals to release their volatile compounds and then collect and keep only this portion (not the “tea”).
- Distilled water
- Pot with rounded lid
- Small container that can sit inside the pot.
The goal is to heat the flower petals and collect the vapor that evaporates. When the vapor cools, it condenses into the liquid, which is the rose water.
- Set the small container in the center of the pot. If you think it will float around, you can set it on top of a small inverted bowl or a brick in the pot. Its purpose is to collect liquid that drips from the lid, so it doesn’t need to touch the petals or water.
- Place the rose petals around small container. Add just enough water to barely cover the petals.
- Put the lid on the pot upside-down. Vapor will run down the sides of the lid and drip into the central container.
- Bring the pot to a gentle boil.
- Place an ice cube on the pot lid to help cool and condense the vapor so it will drip.
- When you have collected the rose water, turn off the heat and let the pot cool before retrieving your prize. Don’t get burned!
- Store the rose water in a sealed container. It will last longer if refrigerated.
Experimenting With Different Roses
Roses come in many colors. They also come with different fragrances. A rose may smell floral, spicy, lemony, peppery, or have nearly no fragrance at all. So, experiment with different roses. Seek out roses known for their fragrance, rather than their beauty.
If you’re collecting roses from your own garden, also pay attention to the time of day you pick them. Most flowers release their peak fragrance early in the morning, when the temperature is cool. A healthy, hydrated flower is more likely to carry a scent than a dry one. The maturity of the flower also affects its scent. A rose bud smells a bit different from a mature bloom.
You can also extract the fragrance of other flowers using this technique. Good flowers to try include lilacs, violets, hyacinths, lavender, honeysuckle, and irises. Feel free to use more than one flower at a time, but be aware of the safety of the extracts. Rose water, lavender water, and violet water are safe to use in food and cosmetics. Other floral essences may be safe to smell, but shouldn’t be applied to skin or used in food.