Here I’m telling you about flower waters whose recipes I found in books of the 13th century. All we need to make these drinks is citrus blossoms and / or summer fruit, cane sugar or honey and tap water.
After all, the Lagoon climate makes citrus groves thrive. Sometimes there are also olive trees, tucked away behind red brick walls. There are lemon and orange trees, kumquat, olive and almond trees and huge aloe plants growing in ancient stone vases.
Venetians love one fruit (!!) in particular, I mean le mandorle – the almonds. Yes, these are fruits, not nuts.
We still love latte di mandorle. That’s home-made almond milk, such a delightful summer refreshment. One VERY easy way is to grind the almonds, cover them with water in a pot and leave them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add a few spoonfuls white cane sugar, bring the mixture to the boil, leave it to cool down to room temperature and drain the liquid. That’s your Venetian almond milk, and you can keep it 2-3 days in the fridge.
Infusing blossoms overnight is how you make acqua profumata ai fiori d’arancio – orange blossom water. We infuse orange or citrus blossoms and go ahead just like we did with almond milk.
Both drinks contain water and fruit / blossoms, and they are part of favorite Venetian summer traditions. I know a Venetian family who have made acqua profumata ai lamponi – raspberry water in that way for generations !!
Sometimes, our almond milk comes flavored – in that case, I added a few drops of apricot syrup (home-made, of course).
Add spices such as cinnamon and star anise and cook the mixture for a longer time until it thickens. Drain the liquid and you’ve got a basic ingredient, that is spice essence, from which perfumes were made in Venice for 1,200 years.