The elusive elderflower blooms in creative cocktails.
Elderflower liqueur has captivated cocktail enthusiasts with its unique taste and magical mixability; it gets along with everything from champagne to tequila. Adam Weng, bar manager at G Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott explains elderflower’s appeal: “The aroma is floral, but not the flavor. As an ingredient it provides just enough sweetness for a balanced cocktail.”
Known as Sambucus nigra, these edible flowers are tiny, white, and star-shaped. They grow widely across mountainous regions in Europe and only bloom for a few short weeks from late May to early June. The flower heads are very fragrant but lose their bloom—and flavor—quickly. That hasn’t stopped many cultures from using elderflower as a homemade cordial mixed with sparkling water, soda, tea, and wine.
The most popular brand of elderflower liqueur is St. Germain, which debuted in 2007 in what looks like a Parisian apothecary bottle. Produced in France, St. Germain created quite a stir in the bartending world because no one had successfully been able to bottle the essence of fresh elderflower in a shelfstable liqueur. It took the company a few years to get it right—previous attempts rendered a bitter liquid.
At G Bar and Kitchen, St. Germain plays a supporting role to a variety of cocktails: Sofie’s Mom is a garden-fresh mix of Farmer’s Organic Gin, muddled cucumber and lemon, while the French Intervention is a citrusy combination of silver tequila and grapefruit juice. Both cocktails use elderflower liqueur to bring the flavors seamlessly together.
Weng says elderflower is a bartender’s best friend because it goes with so many things. “It mixes particularly well with gin because the floral notes play off the evergreen.” He features a cocktail called the Portland Flower made with Mainebrewed Allagash beer, gin, lemon, and of course, elderflower.
At-home bartenders can add a little “ooh la la” to cocktails made with elderflower liqueur using brands like newcomer St. Elder (produced in Somerville, Massachusetts). Add a few tablespoons to champagne or white wine with a twist, and shake with vodka, gin, or tequila.
Uncommon Uses for Elderflower
Packed with antioxidants, elderberry has been used to treat ailments like flu symptoms and allergies for hundreds of years.
The stunning blooms are a garden showpiece, attracting butterflies and birds that feast off the berries.
In Eastern Europe, elder branches are used to make flutes.
Relishes and fruit pies are a delicious delicacy made from the berries and flowers in Austria, Italy, and Germany.
Harry Potter fans may recall the most powerful wand in the world of wizards was called the Elder Wand because it was made from Sambucus.