In this article, you’ll discover how to make rose flower vinegar. Unlike most store-bought vinegars, this recipe produces a living vinegar that’s as rich in probiotics as it is in flavor!
What’s does fermented rose flower vinegar taste like? A rich, incredibly nuanced vinegar with subtle rose flower notes; it’s more akin to a white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar than a red wine vinegar. And as we detail below, the longer you allow the vinegar to age and reduce, the better the flavor becomes.
Also, if you’re new to fermentation, don’t fret – this is a VERY simple, “wild” fermentation process that doesn’t require any fancy products, knowledge, or equipment.
Making living vinegar from flowers: what you need to know
1. Use organically grown roses.
For this recipe, you’ll want to use organically grown rose flowers, aka flowers that do not contain synthetic pesticide residues. Unfortunately, roses are often heavily treated with pesticides, so this means you should be wary using roses from public parks or stores and may need to use home-grown roses instead.
Why? Depending on the type(s) and quantity of pesticide/biocide present on the flowers, it could impede or alter the microbial fermentation process leading to uncertain results. It’s also not a great idea to consume pesticides if you can avoid doing so.
2. Use very fragrant whole rose flowers – unwashed.
The most important detail for producing a good rose flower vinegar is to use highly fragrant rose flowers. The stronger the rose smell, the better the final flavor. Granted, your finished vinegar won’t taste like you’re sipping a rose, but the fragrance will still make a difference in final flavor quality.
Also note this is not a rose petal vinegar, it’s a rose flower vinegar. Yes, you can use the whole rose flower, not just the petals.
Also, don’t rinse your rose flowers before using them for this recipe. That’s because they contain the critical wild microbes you need to initiate and sustain fermentation (more on that below)!
3. Use colorful rose flowers if you want a colorful vinegar.
If you use white or yellow rose flowers, you’ll get a more clear-colored final vinegar. That’s perfectly fine.
However, if you want a more vibrant-colored vinegar, use colorful roses: pink, purple, red, or combinations thereof. For example, in the pictures of the vinegar made for this article (which has a beautiful reddish hue), we use the purple-red roses of an heirloom David Austin variety we grow named ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’.
4. Can you use other edible flowers to make this vinegar recipe?
Yes, you can use other edible flowers to make this recipe, but the same general rules above apply. (Check out this list of our favorite edible flowers.)
If you want to get adventurous, a few good edible flowers we’d recommend as a substitute for rose flowers to make this vinegar recipe include:
5. What do you need to make this recipe?
Remember how we said this is a simple recipe? Well, here’s all you need to make it:
- Glass jar – A large glass jar or container (don’t use plastic even if it’s “food safe” or it will leach into your ferment). For reference, we use an 8 cup / 64 ounce wide-mouth mason jar for the vinegar photographed in this article. Wash the jar with hot soapy water prior to use to make sure it’s adequately sterilized.
- Breathable cover – It’s important to use a breathable cover over your jar to allow the ferment to breathe and off-gas as it develops, while keeping foreign objects out. You can use a linen cloth or a paper towel affixed with a rubber band. Repeat: Do NOT use an airtight lid during the fermentation process.
- rose flowers
- organic cane sugar
- water (preferably filtered and non-chlorinated so as not to inhibit microbial development)
- citric acid powder or lemon juice
General ratios to follow for this recipe are 1 part rose flowers to 1 part sugar to 2 parts water. And for every 1 cup of flowers used, you’ll want to add either 1 tbsp citric acid or 1/5 cup of fresh lemon juice to bump up the initial acidity.
- 1 cup whole rose flowers (unwashed)
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp citric acid (or 1/5 cup lemon juice)
6. How do you ferment vinegar? What’s actually happening?
Rose flower vinegar is a two-phase fermentation process, and it all happens without you having to add any additional ingredients.
Phase 1: Days 1-14:
First, you’ll stir all your ingredients together in a glass jar and cover the jar with a breathable cloth. (Don’t worry if all the sugar doesn’t dissolve right away – it will over the next day as it saturates and you stir it.) Then, put the jar in a cool indoor spot out of direct sunlight.
The ideal temperature range to make this vinegar is room temperature, specifically 70-73°F (21-23°C). As for the location: a dark cupboard is fine, but the jar doesn’t actually need to be placed in a dark spot, it just needs to be out of sunlight or areas with a lot of temperature variation (example: don’t put it next to your stove or oven).
Twice per day (ideally once every 12 hours), you’ll remove the lid and give the mixture a vigorous stir with a clean utensil for about 1 minute each time. You’ll only need to stir the mixture during the first 14 days, not thereafter as we’ll detail more below.
During the first phase, native wild yeasts will consume the added sugar and various parts of the rose flowers. There’s likely some microbial action happening via lactic acid bacteria (LAB) during this phase of fermentation as well. As the yeast eats the sugar, it produces alcohol/ethanol via the process of alcoholic fermentation.
After 14 days, you’ll want to strain out the rose flowers (squish out as much liquid from them as you can with a spoon or spatula), then re-cover the jar to continue on to the next phase.
Note: Take small tastes of your fermentation as you go during the first phase so you can see how the flavor develops. At first it will be very sweet and not very effervescent. Then it will begin developing wonderful flavor complexity and rose flavors along with effervescence (bubbles). This is a drink we call rose flower sparkling cordial, but you’ll keep going to turn it into vinegar.
Phase 2: 14 days up to 1 year:
The alcohol produced during the first phase of fermentation is then slowly consumed and converted to acetic acid by acetic acid bacteria (AAB) during the second phase of fermentation. (Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its distinctive sharp-sour flavor and smell.)
Where do these beneficial AAB microbes come from? You guessed it: they’re already there on your rose flowers just waiting for the ideal conditions to proliferate.
During this phase, you do NOT have to stir the ferment at all, but you should keep the breathable lid on your jar. After a couple months, you’ll notice a “mother” or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) form on the surface of the vinegar.
Yes, this is the same process that happens when people make kombucha.
At this point, you could consider the vinegar done, but we’d encourage you to let it continue fermenting and reducing in water content. Exactly how long you let your vinegar go is up to you.
Our favorite flower vinegars have fermented/aged for up to one year. At that point, it’s lost about 1/3 of its water content, thus taking on a syrupy consistency halfway between water and honey. Then, its flavor intensity/richness is out of this world delicious.
7. Storing your finished vinegar.
When your fermented rose vinegar is at a point you consider done, you’ll want to:
- Strain out the mother/SCOBY and any *lees on the bottom of the jar. (*”Lees” is the dead yeast and other sediment that settles to the bottom of the jar throughout fermentation.)
- Pour the vinegar into an airtight glass bottle/jar. Screw top jars are fine but we like to use swing-top bottles.
- Label the jar (write “rose vinegar” and add the finish date). Then store it in your cupboard alongside other oils and vinegars. Rose flower vinegar can last for years, but will likely form a new mother on top if stored for more than a few months. Tip: If you have enough vinegar to share, store some in small decorative bottles to make perfect gifts!
You can use your SCOBY to make new vinegars or add it to your compost pile. If you’re an adventuresome eater looking to boost your gut microbiome, you can also cut your SCOBY into pieces and add bits of it to shakes. Some people also dehydrate it to make SCOBY chips.
8. How do you use fermented rose flower vinegar?
If you use this vinegar as a cleaning product, we will unfriend you and report you to the Federal Bureau of Fermentation.
Jokes aside, this vinegar is a gourmet treat that should be used in ways that allow you to fully appreciate its sublime qualities: salad dressing, drizzled over fish, etc. Note that if you aged it for a long time, a little goes a long way. Additionally, we also use our rose flower vinegar as a “sipping vinegar” and/or as an aperitif and digestif.
Also note that you should not cook this vinegar or you’ll kill the probiotic microbes present. Simply add it at the end after a dish has already been cooked.
Fermented rose flower vinegar
A living probiotic vinegar made from rose flowers featuring a rich flavor reminiscent of champagne vinegar. Make this vinegar even more delicious by aging it for 8-12 months into a thicker more flavorful reduction!
- 2 cups packed whole organically grown rose flowers, unwashed
- 2 cups organic cane sugar
- 4 cups water (preferably filtered and de-chlorinated)
- 2 tbsp citric acid powder (or 2/5 cup fresh lemon juice)
Phase 1: Days 1 - 14
Stir all ingredients together in a glass jar and cover with breathable cloth held in place with a rubber band. Put jar in a cool indoor spot out of direct sunlight (ideal temp range 70-73°F (21-23°C)).
For first 14 days, vigorously stir mixture with a clean spoon twice per day (ideally once every 12 hours) for about 1 minute each time. Re-cover after each stirring.
On Day 14, strain out rose flowers (squish out as much liquid from them as you can with a spoon or spatula). Then re-cover jar to continue to next phase.
Phase 2: 14 days - up to 1 year
You no longer have to stir the mixture, but keep breathable lid on. After a couple months, a “mother” or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) will form on the surface of the vinegar and the acidity level will rapidly increase as acetic acid is produced.
A lighter less flavorful rose flower vinegar can be ready in ~3 months but we prefer to let ours continue to develop and thicken over 8-12 months until it has a richer flavor and consistency akin to maple syrup.
When finished, strain out SCOBY and lees (sediment on bottom) and put finished vinegar into labeled airtight glass bottles/jars. Can be stored at room temperature for years. Note: new mother/SCOBY will likely form on surface if stored over many months.
We hope you love rose flower vinegar as much as we do. From now on, remember to stop and eat the roses!
Other rose articles you’ll love:
- How to select and use edible roses in your garden
- Recipe: Fermented rose flower cordial
- Three of our favorite wild, edible flowers of spring (including wild roses)