A few people, after reading my cardamom-rose ice cream post, wrote me asking about the difference between “rose essence” and "rosewater.”
They are different, but related flavourings. Rose essence is a much more concentrated form of rose water. A rough conversion is 5ml rose essence = 15ml rose water.
Here’s a brief summary from Alan Davidson’s Penguin Guide to Food:
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans extracted rose fragrance by steeping flower petals in alcohol, oil or water. In some areas rosewater is known as "Avicenna," named after a 10th century Persian physician usually credited with its discovery. It spread to England and the rest of Europe via mediaeval Crusaders.
Water distillation is the oldest known way to extract the flower’s fragrance, but now the steam distillation is preferred as it produces a more delicate and fragrant oil.
Rose water is used throughout India and the Middle East for sweets (for example baklava, firni, halva and shola) and such drinks as lassi and sherbet.
You should be able to find rose essence and rosewater at Indian or Middle Eastern grocers or at an online retailer.
tags: Rose essence Rosewater