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Concoctions And Extracts

How to go about making your own

The fragrance of herbs is in their oils, which must be released into a usable form, usually by soaking in a solvent. Although it may seem odd, it's best to extract fragrance from dried, not fresh leaves or flowers. If you use fresh herbs, you will also be preserving their "vegetable" smells, not nearly so pleasant as their oils. Drying removes juices, leaving only the oils.

To make herbal tinctures for cologne or to add to other herbal cosmetics, half-fill a tight-lidded jar with herbs and cover with ethyl alcohol (not rubbing or wood alcohol) or in 95 proof vodka (choose the cheapest; save the good stuff to drink). Add more if needed to keep covered; shake vigorously several times a day for two weeks -- longer for blossoms. To test, dip a strip of absorbent paper or cloth into it and let dry. Then sniff. Too faint? Keep shaking for another week or so until it's stronger.

The most famous herbal tincture, Bay Rum, is an aftershave made with rum and sold all over the Caribbean. Soak bay leaves in rum, with the peel of an orange or lime and a broken cinnamon stick to jazz it up. Before bottling, add an equal amount of distilled water. If you're more of a Dunhill for Men kind of person - forget the extracts and cough up the bucks.

Bottle these in decanters or cork-stoppered bottles (look in kitchen or import shops for bottles designed to hold cooking oils). Or recycle soysauce, hot pepper sauces and other condiment bottles.