Love potion. The word has the taste of alchemy, dry ice and witchery. The concept of food as a talisman is not a new one, but when it is attached to love there seems to be an unending string of incarnations. It is no wonder; every act of coupling has a unique quality and whether or not it is intended, the potential for creating new life is written into the physical expression of affection. In that tide of energy, identities are exchanged, traded and temporarily obliterated. Each person reemerges slightly different, yet more themselves than they were before. How could one not try to pierce that mystery by engaging the sense of taste? …
Say the phrase “love potion” to Chef Susan Baldassano and she recollects her days at Angelica Kitchen, where the staff and the patrons partook of a mysterious brew called Love Potion #99. The title itself pays tribute to aphrodisiac elixirs and brews, but the name also has the flavor of Chanel for those who are perfume lovers. The aldehydes in this brew come from fruits, herbs and spices, however one would imagine that Ernest Beaux would get quite a kick out of this recipe.
Love Potion #99 Recipe
6 cups apple or pomegranate juice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar/honey
1 oz. (30g) rose petals (food grade) or 1-2 tsp rosewater
1 stick Mexican cinnamon
¼ oz. (7g) lavender blossoms (food grade)
¼ oz. (7g) whole nutmeg
¼ oz. (7g) whole Ceylon cloves
¼ oz. (7g) candied ginger
Optional (though highly recommended):
2 whole star anise
¼ tsp. orange peel
¼ vanilla bean or 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
Simmer juice, water and sweetener. Do not boil as this will produce cloudiness. Put all herbs and spices in a cheese cloth and steep for 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain liquid from cheese cloth to extract the flavors. Serve warm or refrigerate.
Chef Susan Baldassano, a graduate of the New York Institute for Culinary Education, has been a cooking instructor for over 20 years. She is currently the Director of Education at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, in New York City. When she isn’t teaching in the classroom she conducts tours to Italy and Mexico as owner of To Grandmother’s House We Go Cooking Tours. For more information about these historical excursions and tributes to the art of home cooking, visit her website, To Grandmother’s House We Go.
Photo © Bois de Jasmin. Recipe provided by Chef Susan Baldassano.