What Is Elderflower Liqueur And How Do You Use It?

In 2007, a liqueur from the French Alps shook up the world of bartending. Elderflower liqueur is made from white elderflowers, and it brings a floral, fruity taste to drinks (via Alcohol Professor). The ingredient's popularity helped pave the way for world-recognized labels and craft brands to do business. 

If you're new to the world of liqueurs, the delicate taste of elderflower is a fine place to start, as the versatile flavor can be easily paired with gin or vodka and plays well with a variety of herbs and spices. Elderflower liqueur is sweet, floral, aromatic, and smooth, and it offers a taste that must be experienced to appreciate fully (via A Couple Cooks). 

In fact, the taste of elderflower liqueur is so palatable that it has been likened to ketchup, as the liqueur can be matched with a host of beverages and even desserts. And while a range of brands are available for purchase, it is possible to make elderflower liqueur for yourself at home.

How elderflower liqueur is made

To make your own batch of elderflower liqueur, you'll need fresh elderflowers that have ideally been plucked from a clean environment (as per BBC Good Food). According to the Alcohol Professor, some brands make elderflower liqueur using elderflower extract, while others use herbal infusions to produce the drink. Some labels, like St-Germain, use the flower itself, specifically flowers that have been picked at the end of the spring season. 

The flowers peak only for one or two days. Due to their delicate nature, they must be used quickly in order to capture the distinct taste and sweet aroma. St-Germain admits that harvesting the flowers is a literal race against time, and nearly 1,000 blossoms are needed to make one bottle of the unique product. 

If you do happen to get your hands on fresh elderflowers, place the blossoms into an empty vodka bottle, add a half cup of gold or white caster sugar, and let the mixture rest for one hour. 

To make the liqueur, add lemon zest, lemon juice, and vodka until the bottle is completely full, then seal the container and leave it for two days. Once the liquid has been poured through a sieve, your homemade elderflower liqueur can be enjoyed for up to one month.

Making drinks with elderflower liqueur

To use elderflower in drinks, you'll want to carefully balance the liqueur's sweetness (as per Alcohol Professor). For example, the Cousin Rosemary is a cocktail made of vodka, elderflower, grapefruit, and a sprig of rosemary. 

The drink has found favor, partially due to its blend of acidic and sweet liqueurs. It doesn't take much to notice the floral ingredient: Even a teaspoon can be detected in a drink made with tequila or whiskey.

A Couple Cooks recommends making a French Gimlet with gin, lime juice, and St-Germain or a French 77 with gin, lemon juice, Champagne, and St-Germain to sample cocktails that offer the elderflowers' floral notes. According to St-Germain, cocktails for any occasion can be made with the ingredient, from zesty and crisp flavors to bold and bitter recipes.

If you don't have elderflower liqueur but want to experience a similar taste, America's Restaurant suggests reaching for elderflower syrup, a sweet honey-like ingredient that can add sweetness to recipes using rose water for other floral notes.

Brands that make elderflower liqueur

The elderflower liqueur from St-Germain was first made in 2007 by Rob Cooper felt inspired after drinking a craft cocktail at a London bar. Cooper set out to create a liqueur that would deliver that sweet, floral flavor of elderflower syrup, and he did, quite successfully (via News18). Since then, over a dozen other labels have emerged in the liqueur market (as per Difford's Guide).

Food for Net ranks Bols Elderflower Liqueur and Giffard Wild Elderflower Liqueur highly. Both labels originate out of distilleries that boast not only rich histories but also high-quality spirits. 

The family-owned Fiorente brand has made its elderflower liqueur a specialty. The brand runs its operations in an area that is known for having some of the cleanest air and water in Europe (its Italian distillery was the first to be certified carbon-neutral with zero footprint). If you're looking to sample elderflower liqueur, you have plenty of options to try.