The world’s first alcoholic perfume wasn’t so much a perfume, but rather a cure-all tonic, bestowed with near-magical properties. Called the Queen of Hungary water (and later just Hungary water), it was a distilled product made up of rosemary and alcohol. Later versions added citrus and other herbs, making it the true precursor to cologne.
The legend goes that this water was made for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (1305-1380).According to the legend, it reversed her appearance so much that the 25 year old grand-duke of Lithuania asked for her hand in marriage when she was 70!
According to these same legends Hungary water first appeared outside of Hungary in 1370 when Charles V of France, who was famous for his love of fragrances, received some.Hungary water was known across Europe for many centuries, and until eau de Cologne Appeared in the 18th century, it was the most popular fragrance and remedy applied. Similar to other herb and flower-based products, Hungary water was not merely (or even mainly) a fragrance, but also a valuable remedy.For longevity, youthful appearance and to ward off illness, one was supposed to drink the tonic, rub it on skin, bathe in it and inhale it.
However, Queen of Hungary’s Water is an excellent astringent for the face and here below is a recipe from herbalist Rosemary Gladstar
- 6 parts lemon balm
- 4 parts chamomile
- 1 part rosemary
- 3 parts calendula
- 4 parts roses
- 1 part lemon peel
- 1 part sage
- 3 parts comfrey leaf
- vinegar to cover (apple cider or wine vinegar)
- rose or witch hazel extract
- essential oil of lavender or rose (optional but lovely)
* All ingredient measurements in this recipe are for dried herbs.
- Place all herbs in a widemouthed jar. Add enough vinegar to come about an inch or two above the herb mixture. Cover tightly and let sit in a warm spot for two to three weeks.
- Strain. Reserve the liquid. To each cup of herbal vinegar add 1/2 – 1 cup of rose water or witch hazel. Add a drop or two of essential oil, if desired.
- Re-bottle. This product does not need to be refrigerated and will stay preserved if well maintained.