Shortly after it was launched in 2007, Saint Germain became all the rage and I used it a bit until I got tired of it after going through a couple of bottles. It’s not that it’s a bad product, but at the time it seemed that a disproportionate number of new drinks coming from bartenders with little imagination involved St Germain. A lot of these drinks tend to have a similar flavor profile and can be slightly on the sweet side. St Germain got nicknamed “bartender ketchup” which sounds about right – it is really a solution of facility. When you have a drink that is interesting but is not quite there yet – just add a bar spoon or too of this magical ingredient and it will make everything taste better…
Anyway, when I realized that elderflowers did not just grow in the French Alps but were also common in Southern California where I live, I decided that I would embark on a foraging adventure (although no old French men on bicycles would be involved) in search of wild elderflowers. After a few hikes that left me empty-handed expect for some wild sage, I finally found elderflowers (I could tell you my secret spot but then I would have to kill you…). This was at the end of July which was already the end of the season, with most of the elders no longer in bloom. I guess that I should try to come back in a few weeks for the berries!
I harvested some flowers and decided to make a syrup/cordial. I’ve been reading The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, a book that brings together plants and booze in all of its forms. It has a lot of interesting historical and botanical information. It does not have many recipes but included one for elderflower cordial that I adapted. It’s important to make the cordial rapidly as the flowers deteriorate quickly. I made a 1:1 simple syrup (1 cup each of sugar and filtered water) that I boiled and let cool. I picked the flowers (the stems are toxic) and added them to the syrup after giving them a very quick rinse. I let the syrup steep for about 24 hours before straining and adding 1/4 oz of citric acid (the citric acid can also be added with the flowers). The resulting syrup can be kept for a few months in the fridge.
- Hank Shaw’s article on elderflower cordial