Andrew has many years of experience cooking and enjoys creating unusual meals in the kitchen.
Elderflower Makes Unique and Delicious Drinks
The aroma of the elderflower is honey-lemony sweet, and you can use the flowers to make unique and delicious drinks. The process is relatively simple. The flowers themselves are 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.
In this article, you'll find everything you need to know:
- Elderflower champagne recipe
- Elderflower cordial recipe (nonalcoholic)
- Useful tips and safety information
- How to pick elderflowers
- Information about elder trees
- Bonus recipe for elderberry wine (video)
- Timeline: You should be able to produce a vintage product within 7 to 10 days.
- Yield: This recipe makes roughly eight one-litre bottles.
- Alcohol content: 3–5% for the champagne (The cordial, of course, is nonalcoholic.)
- Important note: Bear in mind that the best results come from having everything you use as clean as can be. That means that all equipment must be sterilised, including bottles, buckets, and demijohns. Be extra careful!
- 8 litres warm water (to dissolve the sugar)
- 1 kilogram white sugar
- 5 lemons
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 10 large elderflower heads, stalks removed and cleaned
- Pinch yeast
- Pour warm water into an exceptionally clean large pot or container.
- Add white sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Zest the lemons. Then cut the lemons in half, squeeze and juice. Add the zest, juice and lemon halves to the sugar-water mixture.
- Add white wine vinegar.
- Add the flower heads and gently stir the whole pot for a couple of minutes until mixed.
- Cover with a 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. If no activity (bubbles at the surface), add a pinch of yeast if necessary.
- After 24 to 48 hours, remove the flowers.
- Allow the mixture to continue fermenting for a total of 5 to 7 days. (If using a hydrometer, wait for it to drop to 1010 for 2 days then sieve and decant into strong sterilised glass bottles. Fermentation will continue, so release excess pressure in the bottles by turning the screw top every so often. If you want to be extra safe, use plastic screw top bottles OR leave to ferment in the bucket or demijohns before bottling.)
- After 1 week, you should have your champagne. Leave longer if you wish, up to 3 months. Serve chilled from an ice bucket.
- Please read through the useful tips below for more advice and information.
Tips for the Best Elderflower Champagne
- How to sterilise the bottles: The bottles should be sterilised at 75 degrees. Clean thoroughly and then pop into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- For extra flavour: Add one or two extra flower heads (but be prepared for more fizz during fermentation).
- For stronger flavour: Use 6 to 7 litres of water (instead of 8).
- Substitutions: You can substitute dextrose sugar for white sugar, and you can use a brewer's barrel instead of a pot or bucket.
- How to remove the elderflowers: After 24 to 48 hours, you should remove the elderflowers. To do this, use a fork or strain through mesh.
- If there is no fermentation: Move your champagne mix to a warmer place. Add a pinch of champagne yeast. You can also use baker's yeast if you can't get hold of the champagne yeast.
- If fermentation stops: Add extra yeast (champagne yeast is best). Or pop 7 grams of sugar into each litre bottle before bottling.
- To slow down fermentation: Place the bottles in the fridge.
- To clear murky champagne: Use special brewer's tablets (I used Campden's). Follow the package instructions for tablet use.
- How to make the brew less sweet: Leave the bottles longer. The longer you leave them, the less sweet the brew will be, as sugar turns to alcohol and the champagne becomes 'dry'.
- If the ferment turns vinegary: This indicates that the alcohol has oxidised and you have made a type of wine vinegar! If it tastes good, you could use it for dressings. Oxidation may have occurred because the bottles weren't sterilised properly.
- If you see mould: Remove it, siphon off the liquid into a sterilised bucket or demijohns, add a Campden tablet to kill off the nasties, leave for a day, add more yeast and leave to ferment.
- How to use a hydrometer: If you are using this device to check the specific gravity, make sure it reaches a consistent 1010 before bottling. The specific gravity will gradually drop from an initial high.
- To keep the fizz active: Chill the bottles well before serving. Open the bottles slowly.
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 the top of the 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 the screw top slightly if the pressure is high and the bottles are 'tight' (aka 'burping the bottles').
- Do not let children or pets near the bottles.
Elderflower Cordial (Nonalcoholic)
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!
- 10 elderflower heads, cleaned in water
- 1 kilogram white sugar
- 5 lemons or oranges
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 8 litres boiling water
- In a pot, add cleaned flower heads, sugar, and lemons or oranges and vinegar.
- Pour boiling water into the pot and stir until mixed.
- Cover securely and place in a cool, safe space. Give the mixture 1 day for fusion.
- Strain and pour into sterilised bottles. Chill.
- Enjoy with sparkling water, ice, lemon and fruits!
How to Pick Elderflowers
People out under a blue sky 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 a few common-sense things you need to know. First, you'll want to find a dry, sunny day (yes, we do have them in the UK, about eight times a year). You'll also need a basket or bag to collect the flowers.
You'll need about ten heads for this recipe, that's all.
The Best Way to Pick Elderflowers
- Choose a mature tree away from the road so that the flowers are pollution-free.
- Pick in the early morning when it's dry and bright, if you can. Full sun is best.
- Pick flower heads that look fresh and are not discoloured or half-eaten,
- Get rid of insects and bugs, but do not shake the flowers.
- Try not to decimate the tree by picking too many flower heads from a single tree.
- Don't disturb nesting birds.
- Watch out for bees and wasps!
About Elder Trees
Elder trees, Sambuca nigra, are common all over Europe and will grow happily by the roadside, in a hedgerow, on wasteland, 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.
How to Make Elderberry Wine
© 2012 Andrew Spacey
GillCoker on October 06, 2019:
Hi I’ve made Cordial before but never with white vinegar- does that make it last longer?
My cordial only ever lasts a month before going a bit flaky! Any advice to keep fresher longer?
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 13, 2019:
OK good luck. Please comment on your final results... and the pros and cons of production in the comments section. Although a simple process each little operation has to be carried out just right! There are ways of rescuing the champagne should you run into difficulties.
Tim dillinger on June 12, 2019:
Mine is pink
I think I might have added a little too much yeast, as it smells and tastes a little yeasty
Just bottling now, I’ll let you know
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 12, 2019:
If the seals can be removed boil in water for 2-3 minutes. Bottles washed in soapy water, rinsed and put in oven 275F/130C for 15m.
You can also boil them. Place in tepid water in a big pan and bring to boil. Boil for 10m. Take care removing and place in warm oven to dry off.
Also, if you don't fancy boiling you can buy sterilising Milton tablets from chemists. Best of luck.
Veronica Bayley Davis on June 12, 2019:
I have ordered wire topped bottles with rubber seals. Best way to sterilise please as I don't think they would do well in the oven.
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 09, 2019:
For stronger flavour you can put 1 or 2 extra large flowerheads into the mix or lower the amount of water to 7 litres. You should get a good flavour with the cordial which is a lot quicker to make. Follow the Tips for extra guidance. Good luck. Please let me know how you get on - always good to get extra bits of advice and knowledge.
Lottieotoole on June 09, 2019:
Hi, love this recipe and am just attempting it now. There seems to be a lot of water compared to other recipes, does the cordial still have the same elderflower flavour? Thanks
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on May 17, 2019:
Yes Paola, we've been making either elderflower champagne or cordial and juice for many years. There's nothing quite like sipping/slurping a home-made chilled (alcoholic) drink with friends and family outdoors - that elderflower flavour is hard to beat. The wild yeasts can work well.
Paola Bassanese from London on May 17, 2019:
I am making elderflower champagne for the second time (the first time was a few years ago) and am not using champagne yeast - the flowers seem to have enough wild yeast to produce plenty of carbonation. One day I'll try your recipe with added yeast to see how it goes! It is a very satisfying process, isn't it?
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 17, 2018:
It may do, depends on ingredients. You could experiment with one bottle? Wish you well.
AmyMarie2885 on June 13, 2018:
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
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 03, 2018:
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.
Tutengil on June 03, 2018:
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
Lindym on April 01, 2018:
Thank you so much Andrew. I'll try pouring it through a filter.
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on March 30, 2018:
Sediment is natural and best left to settle or you could try using a filter when pouring.
Lindym on March 30, 2018:
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?
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on May 31, 2014:
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 from Southwest England on May 31, 2014:
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 from LIMA, PERU on December 15, 2012:
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.
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on November 12, 2012:
Many thanks for the visit and comment. I hope one day you might be able to have a go at making this wonderful drink!
SkeetyD on November 12, 2012:
Very informative hub. What a wonderful skill to have; making champagne.! Thank you for this information
Mike Robbers from London on November 12, 2012:
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 from Orange County (Southern California) on November 12, 2012:
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!
Nira Perkins on June 24, 2012:
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!
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 18, 2012:
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 Woods from Houston, Texas on June 18, 2012:
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.
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 16, 2012:
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.
Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on June 16, 2012:
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 on June 15, 2012:
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.
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 15, 2012:
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.