Who would think that something so fragrant, floral and delicate as a rose could be such an intoxicating ingredient in modern spirits?
Latin name: Rosa damascena (Damask rose)
You wouldn’t immediately associate a flower as a botanical in gin but the headiness of rose seems to complement the complexity of juniper. The damask rose, so named after Damascus in Syria from which it originated, is often used in the creation of liqueurs, perfume and gin through the processes of infusion and distillation.
Rose water is also created from the petals of the damask rose using steam distillation but with water, not alcohol. A key ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, rose water is delicious is desserts as well as in flavouring steamed rice.
Wild rose plants produce hips in autumn and these fruits are used to make rose hip syrup, prized for its high content of vitamin C in warding off colds.
Roses have been around for millennia. But have only been used in perfume and as a flavouring in cookery for a mere few thousand years, travelling from the Middle East to Europe in the form of perfume and rose water.
Nicholas Culpeper in his The English Physician printed in 1652 made a lot of claims as to the usefulness of rose cordials, wines and syrups against a whole host of complaints from diarrhoea to gonorrhoea. Lovely!
There are over a hundred organic compounds found in rose oil, chiefly citronellol, geraniol and nerol. Citronellol is responsible for the bright citrus element, geraniol for the flower notes and nerol for freshness. Combined they produce the heady rose scent that is so familiar.
Rose in Gin
Hendrick’s Gin most famously uses rose as one of its key botanicals. Rather than distilling the rose petals, rose essence is added post-distillation. The rose flavour combined with the cucumber essence, also added post-distillation, gives the gin a unique bouquet quite unlike any other gin.
A dash of rose syrup, or rose water, added to your G&T with a slice of cucumber pays homage to Hendrick’s and allows you to adjust the flavours to taste: whether you prefer a whopping great bouquet or a small posy.
It is easy to make your own rose syrup. In the same way, as you would make a simple syrup, take 1 cup of food grade rose water and add 2 cups sugar together in a pan. Heat gently until the sugar crystals dissolve then pour into a sterilised bottle. Keep for a few weeks in the fridge while you make some fabulous cocktails.