The Making of Rose Liqueur

I was inspired by my visit to the Dvor Duboković to have a go at making my own rose liqueur. Their Rožolin was rather wonderful, and although we had bought a bottle to enjoy later, it was all too small. The process, as they told it, seemed simple enough, and I have some lovely fragrant old roses in my own garden. Come the end of May I had my starter kit of harvested rose petals, sugar and a big jar all ready.

Rose petals

Harvested rose petals

Here’s the basic instructions for Rožolin, as made on the island of Hvar:

Layer rose petals and sugar in a jar. Sit in sunshine for 6 months. Keep topping up the layers. Strain, add rakija to taste and bottle. Drink!

Layered rose petals and sugar

Last year’s effort started off well

The simplicity of the steps is deceptive, and the issues became all too clear in my own kitchen. OK, so for a start, do I wash the petals, or put them in the jar as is? Last year I tried both ways, and discovered that adding extra water is a not good idea – better to put your petals in straight from the garden. And then, last summer at our place didn’t start as hot as usual, so I was left with my jars sitting under cloudy skies for weeks. I really didn’t like the way things were developing, with the petals starting to turn brown and soggy. And how exactly do you strain solid sugar? Did they perhaps forget to tell me something?

Fresh rose petals in the jar

Fresh rose petals in the jar

So after a few months, I gave up on the traditional method. Rather than waste everything, I tipped the contents of the jars into a pan, and boiled up the mixture. Straining out the petals gave a rose syrup with a faint tinge of pink and a light fragrance. Some of the rose syrup I simply bottled, thinking it would be useful to have a non-alcoholic version, and to the rest I added some brandy and bottled as rose liqueur.

The year's effort - after a couple of weeks

This year’s jars after a couple of weeks

Based on last year’s efforts, I learned two things. One is that my version of the rose liqueur, while quite drinkable, is not a patch on the sublime original that I enjoyed so much at Dvor Duboković. Just what you’d expect, really! Clearly I need several years more experience, and to be more selective in my choice of roses. The soft fragrances are not good enough, it needs to be a rose with a more intense scent.

This year's jars after more layers

This year’s jars after more layers and sunshine

Secondly, I’ve discovered what a wonderful ingredient rose syrup is for summer desserts! A spoonful or two in a fresh fruit salad turns it into something really special and I’m now planning to try rose ice cream! It’s good, too, in drinks – add to home-made lemonade or to a simple mineral water for a refreshingly different cordial. As I top up this year’s jars (thankfully in sunshine!), I’m planning to make more rose syrup, less liqueur this time round.

Rozolin instructions

My notes on the making of rožolin – looks simple enough!

4 thoughts on “The Making of Rose Liqueur

  1. This is very interesting! I’m quite curious about how this is done too – what happens after you lay the roses in the jar for 6 months? And when they start to turn brown, what do you do with it? Do you have to boil it?
    I wish I could harvest some rose petals to try too!

    • I’m told that the petals will turn brown, that’s natural. As the jar sits in the hot sun, the sugar melts, so it’s possible that over several months, the mixture won’t need to be boiled as a final step before straining and bottling. It may already be liquid. I’ll post updates if anything interesting develops! And you could probably try the same with other flowers, too, or perhaps a fruit liqueur instead?

      • Thanks for this! I live in a concrete jungle with no garden around me so I can’t get fresh flowers/fruits 😦 But I’ll see where I can pick up something and try this out! Cheers!

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