What Is Elderflower Liqueur
Elderflower liqueur is having a moment right now, and we could not be more excited. You’re more than likely familiar with it thanks to St. Germain, the brand owned by Bacardi. It’s a very prominent and fragrant liqueur, it definitely stands out in any cocktail and mixes well with many spirits! That being said, let’s dig in.
Elderflowers are beautiful white plants that maybe remind you of Baby’s Breath. Elderflower only grows in the Spring and Summer, Europe is way ahead of the states in the terms of using it in just about everything from food to drinks, but the U.S. will catch up!
The blossoms are carefully picked and distilled with no preservatives and or stabilizers. The flowers are native to the hillsides regions in the French Alps. According to the St. Germain website, “the picked flowers are bicycled to a collection depot,” (yes you read that right they’re bicycle) “they are immediately macerated to preserve the fresh flavors of the bloom.” The extraction process is not exactly easy and unfortunately for us, St. Germain knows how to keep a secret…
However, we did find how to make Elderflower liqueur in general, thanks to the folks over honest-food.net. They kept NO secrets, especially given the natural delicate state of the flower. You have to pick the blossom before noon, this is because once that afternoon sun shines on the flower, the aroma is ruined. The two hours following are also important and should be used to make the liqueur right away.
Here’s the recipe from Honest-Food.net by Hank Shaw:
Serving Size: 1 Quart
10 to 20 Elderflower heads
1 quart vodka or Everclear
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
-Snip the flowers off the stalks into a quart Mason jar. Getting them all is not possible, but spend some time removing the stems.
-Cover the flowers with the alcohol and seal. What alcohol? Your choice, really. Typical is 80-proof vodka, but I prefer 100-proof vodka. And once a year I use Everclear or some other 151-plus proof alcohol. Why? The flavors and aromas of elderflowers are not all extractable by water, or alcohol for that matter. I find that the higher the alcohol content, the cleaner and purer the elderflower flavor. Of course, if you use Everclear, you will need to cut the liqueur with lots of water or ice -- otherwise, it will knock you down in a hurry.
-You will want to submerge the flowers completely in the alcohol. If you don't, the top layer of flowers will oxidize from contact with air, turning brown. This doesn't harm your liqueur, and for years I made it this way and it was fine. But a better way to do it is to use a narrow-necked jar and fit another, smaller jar into the opening to create an airlock. Or, you can weigh the flowers down with a small plate or jar lid or something.
-Keep in a cool, dark place for as long as you like, but at least a few days. I typically hold mine for two weeks, although I used to do a month. The longer you steep the flowers, the darker the liqueur gets.
-Strain twice. First through a fine-meshed strainer to remove the flowers and debris. Then strain it again through the same strainer, only with a piece of paper towel set inside it. This second straining removes very fine particulates, like the pollen. You can skip this second straining, but your liqueur will be cloudy.
-For a quart's worth, add between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want it. Seal the jar again and shake well to combine. If you are using Everclear, a good way to get the sugar into the liqueur -- and dilute it enough to make it drinkable -- is to mix the sugar with an equal volume of water, heat it until the sugar is completely dissolved, cool it back to room temperature, and then add it to the liqueur.
-Put the jar back in the pantry, and shake it from time to time until the sugar has dissolved. When it is, you are ready to drink it. It will last forever.
Pretty simple right? Thanks, Mr. Hank!
A Brief History:
We couldn’t find the originator of Elderflower liqueur, and unfortunately, our research only lead us to something quite sad…
The man credited with inventing Elderflower liqueur was Robert Cooper, whom in 2007 launched his self-named spirits company, Cooper Spirits Co in NY. By 2013, Bacardi took interest and purchased the company from Cooper. He was a pioneer to the culture, sadly he passed away in 2016. He was just 39 years old, may he rest in peace.
The stalks and leaves of elderberry plants are toxic, that’s why you have to cut off as much of the stems as you can before distilling.
We hope you we have opened your eyes to this wonderful and variable liqueur. It truly goes well with just about anything and if you find the flowers while hiking in the French Alps, just remember you only have 2 hours to get them to a mason jar!
Thanks for reading and as always…