What The Numbers On A Bottle Of St-Germain Mean

If you've never tried a cocktail made with St-Germain before, it can best be described as tasting floral and effervescent, thanks to the addition of elderflower liqueur. It seems tailor-made for cocktails served on the terrace of an imaginary country summer home. The liqueur carries a promise of ancient French "je ne sais quoi," dating back to 2007 and owing its fast rise to global popularity to the burgeoning craft cocktail resurgence of the late aughts.

The bright floral notes of St-Germain make it an ideal pairing for the botanicals in gin-based cocktails, even perking up a simple gin and tonic. Spiking a glass of champagne with a tiny bit of St-Germain is also a marvelous idea, as is combining St-Germain, gin, and champagne in a twist on a French 75. The elderflower liqueur also mixes well with vodka, egg white, and lemon juice, for an elegant cocktail that looks as fabulous as it tastes.

Because of its irresistible flavor and deft versatility, St-Germain has become a staple of every bartender's stash, and its distinctive Art Deco bottle makes it easy to spot even across a crowded bar. The bottle is marked with a sticker embossed with the phrase, "La vie parisienne en bouteille," or, "The Parisian life in a bottle." But many people wonder about the number stamped just below the St-Germain label, which differs on every bottle. The key to uncovering its meaning lies in understanding the complicated process of making St-Germain.

The numbers indicate when the elderflowers are harvested

Elderflower blossoms are incredibly delicate and wildly fragrant, and they only bloom for about three weeks out of the year, from late May to mid-June. If this window is missed, the flowers will wither to make room for elderberries, which come from the same plant and have their own jammy flavor used in cooking or for making cordials and sodas.

Because elderflower blossoms are so fragile, they must be picked by hand, and their small size means that it takes 1,000 blossoms to make each 750-milliliter bottle of St-Germain. The blossoms are picked exclusively in the morning before the sun gets too hot so that their aromas of honeysuckle and pear are at their peak freshness. 

Due to their limited season and labor-intensive harvest, each season might produce only a limited number of bottles of elderflower liqueur. Therefore, the number on each bottle indicates the "Atelier No.," the year that the flowers were harvested (via StyleBlueprint). This marking is not only practical but a nod to the artisanal nature of the product and the fleeting vibrancy it captures.

So every time you indulge in a cocktail made with St-Germain, remember that you are drinking something wholly unique, a veritable field of flowers distilled into something magical just for you.