"How to make a soferiagne water"

This is a rather long receipt, and so is the title! But, we got a kick out of reading the whole thing and thought you would too. (If you can't figure out what "soferiagne" means, say it out loud, voicing a "v" instead of an "f." Ah, the creative spellings of the 17th century!) *******************************

How to make a soferiagne water, that M. Doctor Stephens Physician, a man of great knowledge and cunning did practice, and used of long experience: and therewith did very many cures, and kept it alwaies secret, till of late a little before his death, Doctor Parker, late Archbishop of Canterburie, did get it in writing of him.

The Receipt

Take a gallon of good Gascoine wine, then take Ginger, Galingale, Camomile, Sinamon, Nutmegs, Graines Cloves, Mace, Aniseeds, of every of them a dramme. Then take Sage, Mint, red Roses, time Pellit drie of the wall, wilde Marjoram, Rosemarie, penny mountaine otherwise called wilde Lime, Camomile, Lavender, and Avens?, of every of them one handfull: then beat the spices small, and bruise the herbs, and put all into the wine, and let it stand twelve houres stirring it divers times. Then still it in a Limbecke, and keep the first pint of the water, for it is the best: then will come a second water, whichis not so good as the first.

*The sundry vertues and operations of the same many times approved*

The vertues of these waters be these: it comforteth the spirits, and preserveth greatly the youth of man, and helpeth the inward diseases comming of cold, against shaking of Palsie: it cureth the contract of sinewes, and helpeth conception of women that be barren: it killeth the wormes in the belly. It helpeth the cold Gout, it helpeth the toothache, it comforteth the stomacke very much, it cureth the cold dropsie, it helpeth the stone in the bladder, and in the reines of the back: it cureth the canker, it helpeth shortly a stinking breath. And who so useth this water ever anon and not too oft, it preserveth him in good liking, and shall make one seeme young very long, you must take one spoonful of this water fasting, but once in seven daies, for it is very hot in aspersion. It preserved Doctor Stevens, that he lived fourscore and eighteen years, wherefore ten years he lived bedred.


There is a lot going on in this receipt! First of all, it is not one you can legally reproduce (at least in the United States). Distillation of hard liquor is illegal without the proper permits. That's what the "Limbecke" is-- an alembic, used for distilling. However, you can arrive at an approximation of this product by making a tincture instead; that is, by soaking the ingredients in alcohol rather than distilling them. A relatively cheap way to do this is using vodka-- only if you are of legal age, of course! And this would only be for your own use, not for sale. (At Ageless Artifice LLC, we use perfumer's alcohol, a legal alternative for topical commercial use.)

As far as we can tell, the only harmful ingredient in this receipt is the alcohol, unless you are allergic to any of the ingredients.  And, the receipt itself only recommends taking a spoonful once a week ("but once in seven daies").  We're not sure it would live up to any of the fantastic claims in this receipt, although we'd really like something that "preserveth greatly the youth of man"! (Side note: we like the spelling of cinnamon.)

An alternative, non-alcoholic option would be to put the ingredients in water instead, and let them soak in the refrigerator. It will not last as long as an alcohol base would; be sure you dispose of it if you suspect it has spoiled.

When you're measuring out the ingredients, remember that a dram, also spelled drachm, is an eighth of an ounce. That's about halfway between the weight of a U.S. penny and a U.S. nickel; so, not very much!

Source: Treasury of Hidden Secrets, 1653, attributed to John Partridge.