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The Floral Tonics One Designer Relies on to Stay Balanced

Floral tonics are something I’ll be looking into this summer. Post Japan health is foremost for Anon and I. I do know that Cornersmith do workshops for natural cordials and shrubs. This article in the New York Times about designer Behnaz Sarafpour’s flower tonics with recipes is of great interest.

Flowers aren’t merely ornamental for Behnaz Sarafpour, the New York-based fashion designer and perfume maker. Instead, “they’re like produce,” she says: “You have your vegetable garden and your flower garden.” Growing up in Tehran, Sarafpour was raised on traditional Persian elixirs made with flower waters — floral infusions created by steam-distilling fresh petals — that are said to have medicinal properties: rosewater to settle a stomach, jasmine to relax and calm nerves, orange blossom for energy. These days, she whips up her own versions at her country home, an 18th-century Federal-style house in Pound Ridge, N.Y. Depending on her mood, she’ll mix jasmine with hydrating crushed cucumber, orange blossom with anti-inflammatory mint or rose with vitamin-C-packed melon.

Served to guests and kept on hand as a healthier alternative to sodas, the tonics instantly bring Sarafpour back to her childhood and mornings spent in the greenhouse of her parents’ house in the northern suburbs of Tehran, where her mother grew citrus and jasmine trees. “I’d wake up early to pick the flowers, when they were the most fragrant,” she says. Flower waters, says Sarafpour, are similar to essential oils but far less concentrated and can impart not just nutritional but also aromatherapy-like benefits.

She buys her waters, which come in an array of botanical varieties, from hibiscus to lavender, at Kalustyan’s specialty grocery in Murray Hill — since making them from scratch requires more than typical kitchen equipment — but gathers the rest of her raw ingredients from farmers’ markets in nearby Westchester County, including John Jay Homestead. Any leftover flower extracts are used in recipes like her Persian grandmother’s panna cotta custard, which Sarafpour prepares with rice flour and enlivens with a splash of rosewater.

Floral tonics may be the way I go this summer, post Japan health looms in a major way for Anon and I. Cornersmith do workshops for natural cordials and surbs. This from the New York Times.

This month, Sarafpour, who ran her eponymous ready-to-wear line between 2001 and 2014 and continues to design custom pieces for private clients, has been making her tonics in batches (“they keep for weeks in the fridge,” she says) to prepare for a busy fall: In November, she will expand her namesake perfume line — also made with flower waters, in single-note distillations — to include a trio of green vetiver, woody oud and bright ylang-ylang essences, which can be layered on the skin for a customized result.

Similarly, the beauty of the floral tonics, she says, is that it’s easy to adjust the ingredients depending on the body’s needs and the season. For more spirited occasions, for example, she suggests swapping the water used to dilute each elixir for champagne to create a festive aperitif. Here, Sarafpour shares three recipes that capture the flavors, and medicinal properties, of the garden.

Image“In Persian folk and herbal medicine, flower waters were an extension of herbal remedies,” Sarafpour says of her tonics, which she blends with ingredients such as honeydew melon, cucumber, lemon and mint.
“In Persian folk and herbal medicine, flower waters were an extension of herbal remedies,” Sarafpour says of her tonics, which she blends with ingredients such as honeydew melon, cucumber, lemon and mint.CreditJulie Bidwell
Calming Jasmine, Apple & Honey Tonic

Serves 4

● 1 cup wildflower or orange blossom honey

● ½ cup water

● ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar

● 1 cucumber, peeled and grated (or 4 smaller Persian seedless cucumbers, which Sarafpour prefers)

● 2 teaspoons jasmine water

1. In a heavy pot, combine honey, water and apple cider vinegar and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until everything is combined and reduced to a syrup consistency. Then let cool at room temperature.

2. Pour the mixture into 4 glasses, adding 1 part syrup to 3 parts flat or sparkling water for each glass.

3. Add ½ teaspoon of jasmine water to each glass and stir. Chill for about an hour before serving.

4. Top off with a scoop of grated cucumber.

Energizing Orange Blossom, Melon & Mint Tonic

Serves 4

● ½ honeydew melon, cut into chunks

● Juice of 1 lemon

● Simple syrup

● Sprigs of fresh mint

● 2 teaspoons orange blossom water

1. Purée melon in food processor and add simple syrup and lemon juice to taste (using more, or less, “based on ripeness of melon,” recommends Sarafpour).

2. Pour the puréed melon mixture into four glasses, add ½ teaspoon of orange blossom water to each glass and stir.

3. Top off with ice cubes and garnish with mint.

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