Saturday, July 11, 2015


In my herb garden is a little shrub that I had thought was manzanilla, chamomile. When it began to flower, I started looking for ways—besides the familiar, soothing tea—to use chamomile.

Manzanilla--dried chamomile flowers.

I found an intriguing recipe in Food & Wine magazine that called for cooking chicken with chamomile flowers and, on a blog, the idea of infusing cream with chamomile, chilling it and whipping it to serve with berries. 

But, when I picked the yellow flowers and sniffed them, the scent was definitely not chamomile! (Still haven’t identified my mistaken-identity herb.) By then, I was launched on my chamomile project, so I visited the herboristerĂ­a in my local market and bought a packet of dried manzanilla flowers.

Three kinds of manzanilla--wine, olives, herb.
Chamomile in Spanish is manzanilla. In Spain, three unrelated products are called manzanilla. One is the herb, chamomile (matricaria recutita), commonly used as an infusion; another is Manzanilla Sherry, a fino made in Sanlucar de Barrameda, and the third is a variety of olive tree grown in Andalusia and source of the world-famous Sevilla olives.

"Manzanilla" means “little apple” and the herb apparently was named in Greek for the resemblance of the flower to a little apple. However, the wine takes its name from the town of Manzanilla (in the province of Huelva, near the Sherry district), which traditionally made a similar style of wine. The olive variety, as far as I can tell, is named because the fat olives somewhat resemble “little apples.” I also detect a slight similarity in flavor in all three—a bitter apple, subtly saline taste—but, perhaps that is only the power of a name.

Chamomile tea and a shot of anise.
In herbal medicine, chamomile is traditionally used as an antimicrobial, antiinflammatory and antispasmodic. The tea is prescribed for colic or any stomach upset. My midwife used a dilute solution of chamomile to wash the eyes of my newborn son. Andalusian campesinos (field workers) start the day with chamomile tea and a shot of strong aguardiente, anise brandy.  Chamomile makes a good hair rinse for blondes, to bring out golden highlights. It’s a soothing bath for prickly skin.

I chose to turn manzanilla into summer refreshment.

Limonada con Manzanilla
  Herbal Lemonade
When life gives you lemons--
 Inspired by a bucket of end-of-season lemons, I made a chamomile-infused, whole-lemon lemonade. Very refreshing on its own, it would also be a bitter-lemon mixer for an alcoholic tall drink. (Try it with aguardiente, an anise liqueur.) You will have to sweeten the lemonade to taste—I used stevia, a non-calorie sweetener—and dilute it with water to take the edge off the bitterness.

Made with whole lemons, this chamomile-infused lemonade has a grown-up bitter taste. Sweeten to taste.
4 cups water
4 chamomile tea bags (or about 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers)
Sugar or stevia (about ¼ cup)
3 whole lemons
1-2 cups water
Ice cubes to serve

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the tea bags or flowers. Cover and let the tea steep until cool. Remove tea bags or strain out flowers.
In blender or food processor, chop the lemons with 2 cups of the tea and sugar or sweetener. Strain the lemon water, discarding the solids. Add remaining tea and 1 to 2 cups more water. Chill the lemonade.

Serve cold with ice cubes.

Gin con Manzanilla
Chamomile Gin

Herb-infused gin and tonic. Cool.
Gin already has a herbal, botanical essence. Steeping chamomile in it adds another dimension. Use the infused gin for cocktails or for that ever-popular summer refresher, gin-tonic.

7 chamomile teabags (or 3 tablespoons chamomile flowers)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups gin

Open the tea bags and place the contents in a jar with the lemon zest. Add the gin. Close tightly and infuse for 24 hours or up to 1 week. Pour through a fine strainer. Store in a tightly stoppered bottle. 

Triple-Manzanilla Martini

Manzanilla (herb) in the gin, Manzanilla (wine) in the martini and Manzanilla (olive)  in the cocktail.

Manzanilla multiplied by 3: chamomile-infused gin, Manzanilla Sherry and Manzanilla olives.

Makes 2 cocktails.

Manzanilla olives
Cracked ice
4 oz chamomile gin (recipe above)
1 oz Manzanilla Sherry

Chill the martini cocktail glasses. Place 2 olives in each.

Place ice in a jar or cocktail shaker. Add the gin and Manzanilla Sherry. Shake or stir. Strain the martini into the cocktail glasses and serve.
Gin with chamomile. Cocktails?


  1. Cocktails sound delicious, Janet!

  2. I was just thinking of making some manzanilla infusion to treat my prickly heat (Madrid is scorching!) Also love the Queen Anne's Lace in the photo.

    1. Lee: Cool manzanilla absolutely the right treatment for prickly heat. The QAnne's Lace in lieu of the manzanilla flowers I have not got.