Carmelite Water – A curious cordial
There is a curious concoction from the early seventeenth century called Eau de Melissa Carmes, or Carmelite Water, and it was supposeddly invented by the Carmelite order of nuns (some sources say it was monks) in paris, in 1611.
Believe it or not, it was used as a perfume as well as a cordial. The blend has a nervine effect and is also useful for headaches… just imagine, drinking your perfume!
Besides Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), most recipes for Carmelite Water also include angelica, coriander seed, cloves, and cinnamon.
Here is a recipe similar to one I found by accident online (I was looking for something else altogether) on recipezaar.com [it has a different address as shown below]. I’m surprised I had never heard of it up until then, having studied Lemon Balm for many years. You might have to find a friend with an angelica plant from which to harvest the leaf as it is not usually the part harvested, most folks use the root in herbal medicine, or the stem for culinary purposes. I decided to add a touch of sweetener for taste, so you won’t be using this recipe for perfume unless you leave out the sugar.
4 tablespoons dried lemon balm leaf
3 tablespoons dried angelica leaves
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
1-2 teaspoons natural sugar or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups good quality vodka
Place all the herbs, spices and sugar in a clean quart jar. Pour the vodka over all, adding more if necessary to completely cover the contents. Place a small piece of parchment paper between the jar and the lid, then cover tightly; label and date. Shake every day for 3 to 4 weeks. After this time, strain the Carmelite water into a clean decanter. This cordial will keep about 6 months in a cool dark place. If you can’t find angelica leaves, use 1 tablespoon dried celery leaf instead.
You will find an article here about another’s attempt at making this recipe, and her honest-to-goodness assessment of the best ways to use this spicy curiosity.