Hand-picked in Southern California

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!

Elderflower cordial

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.

Elderflower cordial

Further reading

14 thoughts on “Hand-picked in Southern California

  1. Elderflower is good for summer afternoons, not for all year. It just isn’t pleasing outside of its time, but in its time it’s ideal. You can also make a bubbly ‘Champagne’ from these flowers, which is also delicious.

    Thanks for mentioning about the stalks. I may or may not have been guilty of leaving the flowers on the branch once or twice… now I see my sloth was inviting tragedy!

  2. Hey! We get good weather several times a day around here!

    Anyway, I’ve received weather scorn from pretty much every part of the world including Poland. I’m used to it.

    *secretly weeps*

  3. Pingback: Booze and elderflowers | Tartines to Tikis

  4. Pingback: Ward Eight & Ninth Ward | Tartines to Tikis

  5. I love elderflower! What does a girl have to do to take part of your secret spot? Im from sweden and traditionally I made elderflower lemonade ever year but haven’t been able to do so since I moved to San Diego! I see planted bushes here and there but I don’t wanna look that desperate and pick flowers from a planted garden. I need wild bushes!


    • Hi Louise.
      I really hope I remembered where this “secret” spot was! The truth is, if you just take a hike or too during the blooming season, you will eventually find elderflowers because they are everywhere. Good luck!

      • So you can’t remember the spot? I live in San Diego, do you think I could find something down here? Also do you know the blooming season in San Diego? I saw a bush in full bloom that looks like elderflower but wondered if it was too soon for them to bloom. it was planted at my school so I don’t wanna pick the flowers off of them and get in trouble.

  6. Pingback: Booze and elderflowers (part 2) | Tartines to Tikis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s