How to Make the Best Elderflower Champagne: A Simple Recipe

Updated on May 28, 2017
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew has many years experience cooking and enjoys creating unusual meals in the kitchen.

Fresh elderflower champagne.
Fresh elderflower champagne.

Everything you need to know about making elderflower drinks is in this article. You'll find...

  • recipes for an alcoholic elderflower champagne and an alcohol-free cordial
  • safety instructions and useful tips should you need them
  • information and must-know facts about fermentation
  • a video on how to make elderberry wine.

All of these drinks have that unique delicious elderflower flavour. Enjoy!

You can make a delicious champagne from elder flowers right now as the blossom from this unusual but common tree is coming into its own. The creamy, lemony-sweet-smelling flower heads can be easily identified and it doesn't take much time to pick a few, plop them in water, add a few basic ingredients and bottle their essence!

The following recipe is very easy to follow and you should be able to produce a vintage product within 7 - 10 days. This recipe makes roughly eight one-litre bottles of elderflower champagne. If you don't fancy the bubbly stuff, you can also make a smooth cordial, just as flavoursome but non-alcoholic.

Picking clean elder flowers.
Picking clean elder flowers.

Picking the Flowers

People out in the English countryside picking elder blossoms. What could be a more idyllic scene? It sounds charming and it's a fun thing to do, but there are common-sense things to think about so once you've managed to find a dry, sunny day (yes we do have them in England, about eight times a year), you'll need a basket or bag to collect the flowers.

If you don't know what an elder tree looks like, check out the Sambucas nigra box below, and the photos should help you identify the right tree.

You'll need about ten heads for this recipe, that's all. Remember:

  • choose a mature tree away from the road so that the flowers are pollution-free
  • pick flower heads that look fresh and are not discoloured or half-eaten
  • shake them to get rid of insects and bugs
  • try not to decimate the tree by picking too many flower heads
  • don't disturb nesting birds
  • watch out for bees and wasps!

Elderflower blossoms.
Elderflower blossoms.

Ingredients - Makes 8 bottles (1 ltr each)

  • 10 elderflower heads, stalk-free and clean
  • 8 litres warm water, to dissolve the sugar
  • 5 lemons
  • kilogram white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • pinch yeast
Gently stir the champagne mix - lemons, flowers, sugar, white wine vinegar.
Gently stir the champagne mix - lemons, flowers, sugar, white wine vinegar.
Cover with clean towel or muslin cloth and leave to ferment.
Cover with clean towel or muslin cloth and leave to ferment.

Instructions

  1. Pour 8 litres of warm water into an exceptionally clean large pot or container.
  2. Add a kilogram of white sugar and stir in until dissolved.
  3. Add zest of 5 lemons then cut in half, squeeze and juice. Add the juice and lemon halves.
  4. Add 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
  5. Add the 10 flower heads then gently stir the whole pot for a couple of minutes until mixed.
  6. Cover with clean muslin or towel and leave to ferment in a safe, cool space. After 24 hours, check for telltale signs of fermentation- bubbles and foam activity. Stir each day to encourage activity. Add a pinch of yeast if necessary. Don't forget to remove the flowers after 1/2 days!
  7. Leave safe to ferment further for 4/5 days then sieve and decant into strong sterilized glass bottles. As the fermentation continues, release excess pressure in the bottles by turning the screw top every so often.
  8. After one week, you should have your champagne. Serve chilled from an ice bucket.
  9. Please read through the useful tips below for more advice and information.
All bottled up using a filter funnel and a variety of bottle.
All bottled up using a filter funnel and a variety of bottle.

Useful Tips

  • Use special brewer's tablets (I used Campden's) to clear murky champagne: You'll have to follow instructions for tablet use.
  • Chilling the bottles well before serving and opening slowly keeps the fizz active.
  • If you use a hydrometer to check the specific gravity, make sure it reaches 1010 before bottling.
  • Sterilize bottles at 75 degrees. Clean thoroughly then pop in oven.
  • Move your champagne mix to warmer space if there is no fermentation. Add a pinch of yeast.
  • To slow fermentation down, put bottles in fridge.
  • If fermentation stops add extra yeast - champagne yeast is best.
  • Use one or two more flower heads for extra flavour. But be prepared for more fizz during fermentation.
  • Use dextrose sugar instead of white sugar and a brewer's barrel instead of a pot.
  • The longer you leave the bottles, the less sweet the brew will be, as sugar turns to alcohol and the champagne becomes 'dry'.
  • Pick the flowers in full sun for best results.
  • Alcohol content should be around 3-5% for your champagne.
  • Should your ferment turn vinegary (which means the alcohol has oxidised), you have made a type of wine vinegar! It could be used for dressings if the taste is good. If your bottles weren't sterilised properly this could also turn it vinegary.
  • Use a fork to remove the elder flowers.

Safety Tips

Fermentation produces a build-up of bubbles as the yeasts break down the sugars. By following these safety tips you should be able to produce a great drink and stay safe!

  • leave an expansion gap at top of bottle when decanting your brew
  • keep the bottles safely stored in a well-aired, locked shed or space
  • put the bottles in bags and then in cardboard or wooden boxes
  • check daily or twice daily for pressure: release screw top slightly if pressure is high and the bottles 'tight,' aka 'burping the bottles'
  • do not let children or pets near the bottles.

Elderflower Cordial

Cordial is made in much the same way except there is no yeast involved and therefore, in theory, no alcohol present in the end result!

  • 8 litres boiling water
  • 10 flower heads
  • 5 lemons/oranges
  • white wine vinegar
  • kilogram white sugar

Clean the flower heads in water, and place in the pot with the sugar and lemons/oranges and vinegar. Pour boiling water into pot, stir until mixed, then cover securely and place in a cool safe space. Give the mixture one day for fusion. Strain and pour into sterilized bottles then chill. Enjoy with sparkling water, ice, lemon and fruits!

Elder

Sambuca nigra: elder trees are common all over Europe and will grow happily by the roadside, in a hedgerow, on waste land, or on the edge of a wood. You can test to make sure you've got the right tree by taking a leaf, crushing it and smelling the strong savoury/smoky odour. The flowers have a sweet honey-like scent bordering on the fruity. In September and October, you'll see the large bunches of dark elderberries weighing the tree down as the season progresses. From these comes the rich juice, said to be medicinal.

Make Elderberry Wine

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Andrew Spacey

    Comments

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    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      4 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      It may do, depends on ingredients. You could experiment with one bottle? Wish you well.

    • profile image

      AmyMarie2885 

      4 months ago

      Have a batch of this started today from elderflowers picked from outside my son's school. Plan on gifting some to the teacher at the end of the school year.

      And with the left over heads and lemons I've make a litre of cordial. Instead of sugar in the cordial I've used a sweetener (erythritol/Stevia mix) and so far it tastes wonderful.

      Just wondering if the sweetener would work in the champagne or even part sugar and part sweetener? (I'm generally low carb so look for alternatives).

      Thanks in advance

    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      4 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Hope it goes to plan. Follow the tips if you need them - sterile bottles a must. Chilled, with lemon on a hot day - so nice.

    • profile image

      Tutengil 

      4 months ago

      It’s high time I made this .... I love the simplicity of this recipe so I’ve tried it as I have an elder on the piece of no-man’s land outside of my house the tree is quite a few years old and today the sun is shining and it’s laden with frothy creamy flower heads.... all the family have been saying we will make it this year so I’ve passed your link/recipe on. We will see how it goes! Thank you

    • profile image

      Lindym 

      6 months ago

      Thank you so much Andrew. I'll try pouring it through a filter.

    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      6 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Sediment is natural and best left to settle or you could try using a filter when pouring.

    • profile image

      Lindym 

      6 months ago

      How do I stop the sediment from rising up when I open the bottle? It spoils my champagne, or maybe I'm Doing something wrong?

    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Yes Imogen, there's nothing like the taste of your own home made elderflower champagne! I love the whole process - from collecting the flowers to pouring the final drop. Thank you for the visit and comment, much appreciated.

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 

      4 years ago from Southwest England

      I love elderflower champagne, and have made it myself a couple of times. The elderflowers are just starting to come out here now so think it might be time to get another batch going soon. Thanks for the clear instructions and tips.

    • lemonkerdz profile image

      lemonkerdz 

      5 years ago from LIMA, PERU

      When i go back to England, my mum has bottles of this in store. It is a real childhood memory from when we used to make it. At the moment in the UK elderflower has become really popular, flavoring cakes etc.

      Nice hub

    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Many thanks for the visit and comment. I hope one day you might be able to have a go at making this wonderful drink!

    • profile image

      SkeetyD 

      5 years ago

      Very informative hub. What a wonderful skill to have; making champagne.! Thank you for this information

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      5 years ago from London

      I have often wondered about the secrets of making champagne, as I really love drinking it.. probably I will experiment one day even if it looks quite difficult to make ..

      thanks for sharing, voted up and shared :)

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Andrew,

      I don't know if I'll be able to follow your recipe here in Southern California, but I did find your article to be very interesting. Well done!

    • nmdonders profile image

      Nira Perkins 

      6 years ago

      That's really unique. Cool recipe. I'd like to try some but I'm not sure I'd trust myself to make my own. I'll pass this along and maybe someone will make me some!

    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you Peggy W. Elder trees are very common around where we live and are considered a nuisance by some - they invade gardens and hedgerows and the like. Not sure if they reached the USA! You could check the latin name out to see if it's been introduced.

      Apreciate your visit.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I don't know that I have ever seen an elder tree but found this hub fascinating in any case. This should be a contender for certain in the current HP contest for the drink section. Good luck! Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Spacey 

      6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Yep that's right they do resemble mountain ash (or rowan as the scots call them) blossom - both with a special scent and both bearing berries that are used for juice and jelly! The birds love rowan berries and gobble them up like nobody's business when they ripen to a beautiful matt orange colour.. I'd love to see a moose at 'em!

      The recipe is almost idiot proof, you just have to be a bit careful with sterilizing and bottling. The quaffing is easiest!

      Appreciate your visit.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Wow, you make this look so easy! The elder look a lot like the mountain ash that grew in my parent's front yard (and the moose used to devestate every spring). Nicely presented and well done. Voted up and more.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 

      6 years ago

      This is so fascinating. I've yet to see real elderflowers but by the pictures, they're beautiful. I can only imagine how nice it would taste. Very well organized and I totally enjoyed reading it. Rated up.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 

      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a very well-organized hub and the subject is fascinting. It should be a good condidate for the recipe contest, too! We don't have elder trees here, but I remember seeing them in the countryside where I grew up. Thank you for sharing your photos and recipe.

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