This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The principal ingredient of May bowl, or that which gives it its flavor and bouquet, is fresh Waldmeisterkraut (Asperula odorata), the "woodruff" or "sweet grass," "star grass," and a dozen other aliases, of a plant growing wild all over Europe, both continental' and insular, and cultivated by some gardeners in this country. It is accredited with being a diuretic, deobstruent and hepatic stimulant, of no mean order, though it has long been banished from the pharmacopoeia.
In Baden and in Bavaria in preparing Maitranlc the practice was formerly to first make an essence—Maittanhessenz, for the preparation of which every housewife had a formula of her own. The following was that generally used in the south of Germany:
Fresh, budding woodruff, cut fine 500 parts
Alcohol, commercial (90 per cent).1,000 parts
Digest together for 14 days, then filter and press off. Many add to this some flavoring oil. As coumarin has been found to be the principle to which the Waldmeister owes its odor, many add to the above Tonka bean, chopped fine, 1 part to the thousand. From about 12 to 15 drachms of this essence is added to make a gallon of the wine, which has about the following formula:
French brandy, say 4 drachms
Oil of unripe oranges......... 80 drops
Sugar............4 to 8 ounces
Essence.......... 12 drachms
Wine to make..... 1 gallon
Take enough good woodruff (Waldmeister) of fine aroma and flavor. Remove all parts that will not add to the excellence of the product, such as wilted, dead, or imperfect leaves, stems, etc., and wash the residue thoroughly in cold water, and with as little pressure as possible. Now choose a flask with a neck
sufficiently wide to receive the stems without pressing or bruising them, and let the pieces fall into it. Pour in sufficient strong alcohol (96 per cent) to cover the herbs completely. In from 30 to 40 minutes the entire aroma is taken up by the alcohol, which takes on a beautiful green color, which, unfortunately, does not last, disappearing in a few days, but without affecting the aroma in the least. The alcohol should now be poured off, for if left to macerate longer, while it would gain in aroma, it will also take up a certain bitter principle that detracts from the delicacy of flavor and aroma. The extract is now poured on a fresh quantity of the herb, and continue proceeding in this manner until a sufficiently concentrated extract is obtained to give aroma to 100 times its weight of wine or cider.
Fresh woodruff, in bloom or flower, is freed from the lower part of its stem and leaves, and also of all foreign or inert matter. The herb is then lightly stuck into a wide-mouth bottle, and covered with strong alcohol. After 30 minutes pour off the liquor on fresh woodruff. In another half hour the essence is ready, though it should not be used immediately. It sh6uld be kept at cellar heat (about 60° F.) for a few days, or until the green color vanishes. Any addition to the essence of aromatics, such as orange peel, lemons, spices, etc., is to be avoided. To prepare the Maitrank, add the essence to any good white wine, tasting and testing, until the flavor suits.
The following are other formulas for the drink:
Good white wine or
cider............ 65 parts
Alcohol, dilute...... 20 parts
Sugar............. 10 parts
Maitrankessenz..... 1 part