Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making Elderflower Liqueur

Elderflowers macerating in vodka
A few years ago elderflower became the new darling of the artisanal cocktail explosion.  It was hard following up something as popular as yuzu but those people at St-Germain know what's good.  Elderflower liqueur has been on every mixologist's short list in recent past, specifically St-Germain.  I was astonished to discover that this strange, subtlety flavored libation is a new invention and not the ancient tradition their advertising campaign would have you believe.

Elderflowers grow all over Prospect Park and another artisanal cocktail enthusiast told me that he'd made his own liqueur from the flowers in the park.  I made a point of getting together with another friend, a local forager and farmer, to hunt for the blossoms.  Armed with wildflower guides we set out and identified plenty of look a likes but came home empty handed.  A second foray found what we were looking for.

I've read that the flowers must be picked in the morning when they're at their most fragrant, and that they should be used within two hours of picking.  The stems are toxic and undesirable so the flowers were cut from the stem and placed in a wide mouth jar.  When the jar was full I covered the flowers in vodka and capped it.  I'd also read that the flowers will float to the top, and that the flowers that come in contact with air would turn brown.  The flavor is not altered, it's just not very appetizing, so I placed a clean lid from a slightly smaller jar upside down on top of the flowers to weigh them down under the vodka.  Every day I removed the second jar lid and shook the jar, then replaced the lid.

I macerated the blossoms for a little over a month.  Each day when I shook it I would compare the aroma with the small bottle of St-Germain that I have.  It was only in the last week or so that I began to notice a similarity, prior to that I was wondering if I had the wrong genus.  I find a honey note in St-Germain so now that it's been strained, like many of my other herbal liqueurs, it's waiting for that special local honey to be ready before it's bottled and labeled and ready to use.  Results to follow.


  1. Hi Julianne - I am curious to know the rest of the story (i.e., did you succeed in making a tasty elderflower liqueur). Please post it here or e-mail it to me at eatwild@rcn.com.


  2. Hi Russ, Yes, I made three versions. I would do it differently next time, making a syrup first and then washing it in alcohol, but I'm pleased with the results. It's fantastic in a glass of champagne!

  3. Hi Julianne, would be very interested to know details of above post ie, making the syrup and washing it in alcohol. Thanks.

  4. Yes, trying to find that perfect elderflower liqueur recipe! Would you mind elaborating? Thanks!!

  5. Yes please give us your recipe thanks