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You may have heard of elderflower, the floral star of St. Germain liqueur. Did you know that elder (Sambucus spp.) is actually a flowering shrub that is common to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere? At the end of summer, the flowers give way to umbels of deep blue/black fruit which are delicious in their own right.
Elderberries must be cooked to be enjoyed. They are traditionally prepared in a sweetened syrup used in folk medicine for centuries. Although the data is limited as far as elderberry’s effectiveness in treating colds and flu, elderberry syrup can be enjoyed as a delicious cocktail ingredient, ice cream topping, and many other culinary applications.
Elderberries can absolutely be foraged in most temperate regions. Just make sure you are picking the black elder variety, Sambucus canadensis or Sambucus nigra. As the name suggest, the berries will be a very deep blue/black as opposed to the red variety. If you can’t find elderberry or it is out of season, you can buy elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Elderberry syrup is made by cooking the berries with other traditionally warming spices like cinnamon, clove and ginger. This is why elderberry is the perfect addition to a winter cocktail!
The basic recipe requires 3 parts water to 1 part elderberry. From there, you can play around with the spices to suit your taste.
3 cups water
1 cup elderberries
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp star anise*
1 inch fresh ginger
1 cup raw honey
- Bring water, elderberries, and spices in a boil.
- Reduce heat and let simmer for 45 minutes, letting liquid reduce to about half.
- Remove from heat and let cool to slightly warm.
- Add honey and let dissolve.
- Pour syrup into a jar for storage.
- Keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
2 oz vodka
1 oz elderberry syrup
Seltzer to top
Combine the vodka and elderberry syrup in a collins glass, then fill the glass with ice. Top off with seltzer of your choice and garnish with a lemon.