Zillahs Aqua Rubea

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Full Recipe Name
Aqua Rubea
Recipe Source
Delightes for ladies by Sir Hugh Plat
Zillah al Sighira al Hurra
Panel Information
Panel Location: Brew U
Panel Date: April 13,2018
Score: 77
Beverage Information
Period: Renaissance
Division: Division 5: Liqueurs, Cordials and Medicinal Brews, Distillation (if legally permitted)
Origin: English

Original Recipe

Aqua composita: Take a gallon of Gascion wine, of ginger, galingale, cinamon, nutmegs and grains of paradise, annis seeds, fennel seeds, and carroway seeds of each a dram; of sage, mints, red roses, thyme, pellitory, rosemary, wild thyme, camomil, lavender, of each a handful: bray the spices small, and bruise the herbs, letting them macerate 12 hours, stirring it now and then, then distill by a limbeck of pewter, keeping the first clear water that commmeth, by it self, and so likewise the second. You shall draw much about a pint of the better sort from every gallon of wine.

Aqua rubea: Take of Musk six grains: of cinnamon and ginger, of each one ounce; white sugar candy one pound: powder the sugar & bruise the herbs grossly: bind them up in a clean linen cloth, and put them to infuse in a gallon of Aqua composita , in a glass close stopped for 24 hours, shaking them together diuers times : then put thereto of Turnsole one dramme, and then shake all together: then if the color like you after it is settled , pour the cleerest forth into another glass: but if you will have it deeper colored , suffer it to work longer upon the Turnsole.


Aqua composita: Take a gallon of wine from the Gascony region. Next take the following spices and herbs, braying the spices small (which means pound into powder - Albertus Magnus, "the book of secrets of albertus magnus" 15th century) and bruising the herbs (mashing them to break the skin and release the oils)

1 dram each of ginger, galingale, cinamon, nutmeg, grains (of paradise, I think), annis seeds, fennel seeds, carroway seeds A handful each of sage, mints, red roses, thyme, pellitory, rosemary, wild thyme, camomile, lavender

Put these into the wine and let them sit for 12 hours, stirring every so often.

After that, distill the mixture in an alembic.

Aqua rubea

take six grains of musk, an ounce each of cinnamon and ginger, and a pound of white sugar - powder the sugar, mash the herbs, put them in cheesecloth and sit that in a glass jar which holds a gallon of Aqua composita. Put a lid on the jar. Shake the contents every so often. Let it sit 24 hours. Add Turnsole for color and shake. Let it sit with the Turnsole longer if you wish a deeper shade of violet.


7 grains each: ginger galingale cinnamon nutmeg grains of paradise anis seeds fennel seeds carroway seeds

pinch each: sage mint pink rose petals thyme pellitory rosemary camomile lavender

86 grains: cinnamon ginger

3 ounces: white sugar cubes

Process and Notes

Gascony wine: I used brandy as my alcohol base: brandy is made from distilled grapes. More specifically, I used Armagnac - a type of brandy made in the Gascony region of France. Brandy (essentially distilled wine) is being substituted for the distillation part of the recipe, as distillation is not legal without the proper license.

I made a smaller batch than the original recipe called for. The original started with a gallon of wine. I used 750 ml of brandy. That meant I had to reduce the amounts of herbs and spices called for as well. A handful was turned into a pinch and a dram (.063 ounces) was reduced to .016 ounces (or 7 grains).

In most cases, I used herbs bought in stores. I did use home grown for the lavender as well as the mint (peppermint).

Herbs and spices which I omitted: Mother of Thyme, also known as wild thyme. I was unable to obtain this. It is possible to grow, so perhaps I will try that in the future. Musk: this is a glandular secretion from male musk deer and is not, to my knowledge, commercially available now. Turnsole: a coloring agent. often thought to be derived from the heliotrope plant and therefore poisonous. However, an article by a brewer in Lochac, cited below, suggests that turnsole is also known as Chrozophora tinctoria. The author describes the plant thus: "a low growing annual herb that flowers about November to March in the southern hemisphere or June to September in the northern hemisphere. The leaves are a uniform green, about the colour of a potato plant, with a grey/green woolly underside." Also of note: Turnsole apparently became a generic term for any rags of blue-red dye used in this way, whether they were made with the herb turnsole, or from some other plant that yielded a violet colored dye. The dye soaked rags would be placed in the beverage to add the color.

I took the spices and pounded them using a mortar and pestle, and bruised up the herbs similarly. Once done, I put all of them in a cheesecloth bag and soaked it in the brandy and let it sit for 12 hours.

12 hours later, I tried an experiment to mimic the heating of distillation without the separate collecting of distillate. I placed the entire mixture (including the spice bag) into a two chambered coffee siphon made of pyrex glass. I put all of the mixture in the bottom chamber. Then I turned applied heat via the electric stove burner (set to medium). I placed a cap on the open top of the top chamber, to prevent vapor from escaping. I heated the mixture for 5 minutes, until most of the liquid had moved to the top chamber.

After that, I removed the container from the heat, and removed the bag of spices. For the spices in this recipe, I used stick cinnamon and broke off pieces of it. I also used white cubed sugar to substitute for rock candy, which I did not have. For ginger, I used powdered ginger that my husband had dehydrated and ground.

I made a cheesecloth bag of spices with cinnamon, dried ginger root, and white sugar, and added the bag to the Aqua Composita. 24 hours later, I removed the bag of spices.

As I was unable to acquire Turnsole, I thought I might dye some cheesecloth with grape juice and use that. Unfortunately, the grapes I got were red skinned but green fleshed. I ran out of time to try other dyes. I considered using modern food coloring, but that seemed a poor choice as well.

I put the finished beverage in a glass jar with a lid, as the original recipe said glass. Also, the part of this beverage involved the violet color. It makes sense to serve it in a container where that color would be able to be seen.


The Great Turnsole Quest by Mistress Roheisa le Sarjent published in: Cockatrice: The Lochac Arts and Sciences Magazine. Article from Issue 16

Delights for ladies - Hugh Plat

coffee siphon for visual aid.