What is Essences? How to Use Essences

Essences are essential flavours extracted by maceration or distillation and bottled, usually in an alcoholic solution. Unfortunately, during extraction, we lose some of the finest overtones of flavour. At worst, commercial essences contain synthetics or cheap substitutes. It is best not to use any essences unless they are made and guaranteed by a first-class manufacturer, in which case they may be expensive.

Common essences used by the trade are: allspice, almond, anchovy, basil, caraway, cardamom, cassia, cayenne, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, orange, peppermint, pineapple, raspberry, ratafia, spearmint, strawberry, vanilla, and ‘peardrops’ (jargonelle or amyl acetate).

At home, one should probably limit essences to: finest peppermint oil (if you make your own peppermint creams); rose-water, kewra and orange flower water; and perhaps a good coffee essence for creams, mousses and ices (although it is far better to start with freshly roasted beans). (See Spirits and Liqueurs; Oils, essential.)

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