Sometimes called floral waters, hydrosols are a very rudimentary eau de toilette. Or a different way to think about it: the beginner’s foray into essential oil extraction.
Common uses for hydrosols are freshening body sprays after bathing or as linen sprays.
This recipe uses mint, but you can make hydrosols with just about anything — lavender, rose, citrus peels, orange blossoms. In making any hydrosol, basically what you’re doing is steaming your plant matter and collecting the condensation. The result is pure, vapor-distilled water carrying a light amount of essential oils.
What you’ll need:
- Fresh mint (a lot)
- Large stock pot (tall)
- Pyrex measuring cup or similar large, heat-resistant container
- Brick, stone, or vegetable steamer basket (a pedestal)
- Ice or cold-packs (lots)
First, gather your mint and give it a nice wash.
In a tall stock pot, set a well-washed brick or anything that can act as a pedestal in the center. (If you have a metal steamer basket for vegetables, this can work, too.)
Take your washed mint and form a wreath around your brick.
I had enough mint that the height of the brick and the final height of the plant matter were about the same.
Next, fill your stock pot with water until your brick is almost covered.
The amount of water here ultimately doesn’t matter, but you will need a good reservoir to last the several hours that this will be simmering.
Next, set your (Pyrex or comparable) heat-resistant container on your brick so that it’s in the exact center of your stock pot.
Cover your pot — only flip your lid so it’s upside-down. Turn your burner on low for a sustained, several-hour-long simmer. And keep a steady supply of ice or cold-packs on your upside-down lid. Trust me, they melt faster than you expect.
This is the stage where the boiling water takes your mint essential oils up with the steam, and condenses when it comes into contact with the cool lid. Because your lid is upside-down, the condensation rolls with gravity to the lowest point: the lid handle, where it then drips down and collects in the Pyrex container.
A general rule is to let your pot simmer for about 3 hours, but I could tell by the sound of the simmering that I’d run out of water in my reservoir after about 2 hours. The finished product was still great.
Once you turn your heat off, it’s a good idea to leave your pot covered to cool further. Some hydrosol people say that the best extracts are at this stage and you lose them if you open the lid. (Who am I to mess with hydrosol lore?)
Once your pot has cooled, take off the lid and voilà: mint hydrosol.
First off, brace yourself, because the smell is amazing. Secondly, it kind of catches you by surprise, but the whole thing really does work. Any water left around the leaves will look like well-boiled tea. But inside the Pyrex container, the water is vapor-distilled and pure.
Lastly, I transferred my hydrosol to an old cologne atomizer.
Unlike eau de toilettes, natural hydrosols don’t have any alcohol to help preserve them, so it’s best to try to use them up within a few weeks. Or keep yours in the fridge and it will last several months.
Try it. Amazing.