Substitutions for rose water include orange flower water, rose syrup, rose essence, almond extract, vanilla extract and kewra water. Rose water is made by distilling rose petals. The product is traditionally used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Northern African sweets.
Since ancient times, roses have been used in perfumes, medicine and nutrition. In Greek, Roman and Phoenician culture, large public rose gardens were considered as important as crops.
Today, rose water is commonly used as a spice in Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine, such as in Turkish Delights. Iranian cooks add it to tea, ice cream, cookies and other sweets. Cooks in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India use it to flavor milk and dairy dishes. Bandung is a sweet drink made in Malaysia and Singapore with rose water, milk, sugar and pink food coloring.
Rose water is used in cosmetics, such as ointments, emollients and cold creams. Indian cultures use rose water in eye drops, in face spray and as part of Indian weddings during the ceremonial celebration.
Rose water is relatively easy to make at home. To make rose water, gather three to four rose heads that are pesticide free. Place them in a saucepan with 1 pint of water, and heat them gently until the petals are transparent. Strain the petals, and cool the mixture.