Dress Up Your Cocktails! Recipe for Elderflower Syrup

Langdon Cook  |   May 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
elderflower syrup recipe seattle magazine
Dress up a glass of prosecco with homemade elderflower syrup

Everyone has their own preferred method for making the syrup, but besides the addition of exotic ingredients, the main difference is the time you allow the flowers to steep. I used Hank Shaw’s recipe as a guide, eschewing the citric acid (two lemons seemed plenty, and anyway, I’d used up my stash of citric acid on dandelion wine earlier this spring) and, in a happy accident, steeped my flowers for five days instead of two or three. The extra time only strengthened the subtle flavor without having any funky side effects, though you might exercise caution in really hot locales.

Definitely use a cheesecloth when straining your liquid. It’s an unavoidable fact that little critters like to make their homes in elderflower clusters. The recipe below makes about a quart of syrup. I canned two half-pints and refrigerated the other pint. It will be interesting to see if the canning process had any effect on the delicate flavor.

20 large elderflower clusters
1 quart water
4 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons

1. Trim flowers into a large bowl and try to remove as much of the stem as possible (most of the elderberry tree, other than the flowers and berries, is toxic). Rolling the flowers between thumb and forefinger is a good way to separate stem from flower. Continue to pick through the flower pile, removing as many little stems as possible. 

2. Add lemon zest and juice to bowl.

3. Bring quart of water and sugar to boil, stirring to make sure sugar is well dissolved.

4. Pour liquid over flower and lemon mixture. Stir. 

5. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and allow elderflowers to steep for 5 days.

6. Strain through cheesecloth and fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate syrup or process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Get Cook's advice on where and how to hunt for elderflowers.