My Great Auntie Joan used to make elderflower champagne when we were kids and I always looked forward to a glass in her small wood-and-glass lean-to as the early summer sunshine peeped through the geraniums. She swore blind that it wasn’t alcoholic but I’d beg to differ. It was divine.
I’ve made elderflower champagne to her recipe many times, some more successful than others. It always fermented and always tasted good but some years the bottles were positively explosive (and resulted in my parents having to redecorate their kitchen. More of that in another blog!) and it doesn’t keep well so I now more often make elderflower gin.
This too will change colour and taste over time but it’s so simple to do, tastes divine and won’t explode in your fridge.
Try to pick the flower heads on a sunny day as they’ll be more fragrant. And obviously, only pick if you’re 100% sure you know what you’re picking.
2 or 3 heads of freshly picked elderflower
1 litre of gin
Sugar (to taste)
1 litre kilner jar
Muslin to strain (or a fine sieve)
Give the flowers a quick once-over to check for any insects that you want to remove. Avoid washing them or shaking them too hard as this will remove the pollen which is where the flavour is.
Put the flower heads (stalks and all) into the kilner jar.
Pour over the gin until the jar is full and then seal
Leave in a cool place for 3 days.
Strain the gin through a muslin cloth or a fine sieve to remove any flowers and debris. If you can filter it, it will be clear, otherwise it may end up being a bit cloudy. This doesn’t affect the taste.
I usually don’t add sugar as I prefer it without but you can add sugar to taste. Simply add it a little at a time, stirring it to let it dissolve. Remember less is more and if you use white sugar the liquid will stay clear but golden or brown sugar will change the colour and also affect the taste. Go experiment!
Serve over ice with a light tonic such as Fevertree Mediterranean to let the flavour come through. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel (not pith as this is bitter) and make sure you give it a bit of a squeeze to release the lemon oil. If you like the lemon taste then you can always infuse a bit into the bottle by leaving just a slither of skin in the bottle (again, no pith).
I’ve found that if you keep this for a while to flavour and colour change. So either make small amounts and drink by the end of the season or make more and see what happens!
I’d love to know how you go with making yours. How and when are you going to serve it? Are you making for a special occasion or just because you can? Let me know in the comments below!