Potions in Action: Rosatum and Violatium

Totally stole this image of homemade violatium from Inn at the Crossroads.

Totally stole this image of homemade violatium from Inn at the Crossroads.

Since I’m on the topic of violets, I thought today might be a good moment to discuss potion making with them.  One decent avenue might be trying your hand at making Violatium.

Basically, this is a beverage straight from Ancient Rome, and it is essentially just a wine infused with a quantity of fragrant violet petals (so only Viola odorata need apply if you want the beverage to taste floral instead of vegetal) and sweetened before serving with a measure of honey.  It is dead simple to make, and just requires several weeks of time to allow the brew to cold-infuse.  It was recently featured on the blog Inn at the Crossroads and its sister blog Game of Brews.  They report that the drink is “quirky” and its tasters described it as “a combination of vegetal, green, and like a cheap rose with floral overtones. A smidge of wildflower honey compliments the hint of violets quite nicely. Really, though, the big appeal is in the appearance and uniqueness.”  They also note that the next time they brew the drink, they plan to use only petals and to pick off all the green parts of the flowers, for they think the greens added some bitterness, and that they’d like to try mixing the honey at the start of the brewing instead of just before serving.

The drink Rosatum can be made simply by using rose petals for violets, as John Cordy Jeafferson describes in his book, A Book about the Table.  However, Jeafferson is quite the wine purist and does not think too highly of these brews, as you can see:

Rosatum and Violatium were in high esteem with Apician epicures.  The former drink was made thus.  Several bags (as many as possible) of dried rose petals were put into a cask, and covered with good wine.  The infusion having stood for seven days the rose leaves were firmly squeezed, so that the liquor might have every drop of their scented juice.  Another equally large supply of dried petals was then put into the cask and treated in the same way.  This process was repeated yet again; and when the wine had been completely loaded with roseate essence, the tincture was put away for use on highly festal occasions.  It would have been more properly thrown into the nearest sewer.  Violatium was made in the same manner, with petals of violets instead of petals of roses.  It is impossible that people who enjoyed such preparations, fit only for an apothecary’s shop, could appreciate the subtler excellences of the fermented grape.  (page 49)

To make either Rosatum or Violatium in smaller quantities than a cask, you can follow Game of Brews’s method:

  • 2 cups violet or rose blossoms, each picked 1 week apart.
  • 2 cups mild white wine (pinot grigio or chenin blanc should do)
  • honey, to taste

Strip blossoms from stems and remove any green parts. Fill 1 quart jar with 1 cup flowers, top off with wine, and allow to sit for a week.

Strain the liquid through a sieve, and return it to the jar. Add the second cup of flower petals, and allow to sit for 1-2 more weeks.

Stir in a bit of honey to taste, and serve room temperature, or as a palate cleanser between courses.  Be aware that violatium can have a mild laxative effect.

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