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Hungary Water with Recipes

Hungary water, sometimes called "the Queen of Hungary's Water", Eau de la Reine de Hongary or "spirits of rosemary”, was one of the first alcohol-based perfumes in Europe. Its exact origin is not certain, but according to one legend it was formulated at the command of the Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, by a hermit or monk-recluse in the late 14th century. Another theory is that the Queen of legend was actually Elisabeth of Poland (1305-1380), Queen consort of Hungary, as a cure for her rheumatism or gout. 

Hungary Water was reputed to be a panacea that cured countless ailments and as a perfume, foot bath and even mouthwash. The earliest recorded recipe contained rosemary and thyme in brandy. As its popularity spread, so did the formulations vary. Here are a few:


Hungary Water.

Pure alcohol at 95°. . . . . . . . . 1 gallon.

Otto of Hungarian rosemary  . 2 ounces.

            lemon peel  . . . . . . . .  1 ounce.

            melissa  . . . . . . . . . . .  1    "    

            mint   . . . . . . . . . . . .   ½ drachm.

            spirit of rose  . . . . . . .  1 pint.

Extract of fleur d'orange . . . . . 1    "    

From from A Practical Guide for the Perfumer by Professor H. Dussauce 1868


A Receipt to make the genuine Hungary-Water. 

Put into an alembic a pound and a half of fresh pickt Rosemary Flowers; Pennyroyal and Marjoram Flowers, of each half a pound; three quarts of good Coniac Brandy; having close stopped the mouth of the alembic to prevent the Spirit from evaporating, bury it twenty-eight hours in horse-dung to digest, and then distil off the Spirit in a water-bath.

A drachm of Hungary-Water diluted with Spring-Water, may betaken once or twice a week in the morning fasting. It is also used by way of embrocation to bathe the face and limbs, or any part affected with pains, or debility. This remedy recruits the strength, dispels gloominess and strengthens the sight. It must always be used cold, whether taken inwardly as a medicine, or applied externally.

Another receipt to make Hungary-Water

Fill a glass or stone cucurbit half full of fresh gathered Rosemary-tops picked in their prime; pour on them as much Spirit of Wine as will thoroughly soak them. Put the vessel in a water-bath, and having closely luted on the head and receiver. Then lute your cucurbit again , and encrease the fire so as to cause the Spirit to rise, and let the vessel stand to cool: you will find in the receiver an excellent Hungary-Water, which is to be kept in a glass bottle closely stopped. Hungary-Wayer must be drawn off with a brisk fire, or the Spirit of Wine will come over the helm, very little impregnated with the essence of Rosemary.
From The Toilet of Flora by Pierre-Joseph Buc'hoz, 1772



The 'Smelling History' series has been published for purposes of entertainment & education. It is not recommended to recreate the formulas and instructions outlined here. The methods and materials in these historical exerts could be extremely dangerous.

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