Elderflower Gin Recipe

Making Elderflower Gin

First things first. To pick Elderflowers, you need Elder Trees. I find these just about impossible to identify until they come into flower. Then suddenly... you start noticing them all over the place.

Every year we make Elderflower cordial, along with other elderflower drink, jellies and my personal favourite: Elderflower Lemon Curd. But we'd never made Elderflower Gin until this year. And I'm here to tell you: Elderflower Gin is a beautiful thing.

Fresh Elderflowers have the most amazing fragrance. Making Elderflower Gin enables you to enjoy their loveliness all year long. We had been keeping an eye on the elderflowers around here for a few days. Then we had a warm spell, and now they all seem to be flowering at once.

So we've made Elderflower Cordial, Elderflower Champagne, Sparkling Elderflower Mead and we will make Elderflower and Gooseberry Vodka too, as we did last year.

But if you make nothing else with Elderflower this year: make Elderflower Gin. It is easy to make, smells so beautiful and is a fabulous long drink with tonic. Or enjoy it on its own with ice. Usually we find infused gins improve with age. I wonder if that will apply to Elderflower Gin? It tastes amazing already! Assuming we can keep our hands off it: I'll let you know...

A note about the appearance of Homemade Elderflower Gin [2020 update]

When I originally posted this recipe back in 2018, Elderflower Gin wasn't widely available, and certainly wasn't in the public consciousness on the scale it is now. 

Now commercially-produced Elderflower Gin is everywhere. And it is generally beautifully clear, or yellow, or pink. 

I need to mention that your homemade Elderflower Gin will taste beautiful, but it may not look as beautiful as shop-bought. That's because you're not adding artificial colours, nor are you straining every tiny bit of elderflower out (assuming the commercial products use elderflowers in their process, sometimes they will use a flavouring or essences).

I've seen it positively mud-coloured, which isn't as appealing as a pretty bottle that is crystal clear. Some of the comments on this post were made prior to me adding this update, in case you were wondering.

The risk of cloudiness can be minimised by straining the flowers out multiple times through fine muslin to ensure as few bits get through as possible. Or filtering it using a Fine Harris Filter. Because as the 'bits' go brow, that affects the colour and clarity of the final product. Though bear in mind that if you plan to drink this with a mixer like tonic, diluting it makes cloudiness less noticeable.

If not looking like shop bought bothers you, I would advise you not to make as much of this as you planned to, so you can be sure you're happy with the end result before going headlong into it.

I love anything homemade so it doesn't bother me, hopefully it won't put you off either. But I thought I'd better mention it.

If you want to be sure of crystal clear elderflower gin and tonic and would like a short cut version: just cheat and add a dash of homemade Elderflower Cordial to your gin and tonic!

 

Elderflower Gin Recipe

  • 750ml of Gin. You don't need to spend the earth, use the cheapest gin you can find. Lidl & Morrisons Gin are generally the cheapest, yet often win blind taste tests.
  • 15-20 freshly picked Elderflower heads
  • Zest of a lemon, taken off in large strips with a potato peeler is fine
  • 100g sugar
  • A 1 litre preserving jar
  • A product suitable for sterilising your equipment - see below.
  • And in a week's time: a possibly pretty (and definitely sterilised) bottle.

Method

Shake the flower heads to get as many insects off as you can. Discard any brown flowers.

Remove the Elderflowers from the stems. I quickly remove the tiny flowers from the bigger stems and pop them into a large bowl, and it really doesn't take too long.

But please don't be tempted not to bother. Thick elderflower stems will make your gin taste bitter and spoil it. Sterilise your jar using either a home brewing steriliser like these, or you can use Milton if you have some.

Place the flower heads and lemon zest in the jar with the sugar. Top up with gin, making sure to cover the flowers. Secure the lid and shake the jar to dissolve the sugar.

Put on a shelf somewhere for a week. If the sugar didn't quite dissolve the first time, shake the jar occasionally until it does.

Homemade Elderflower Gin

If you get a stripe at the top of the jar like this, don't panic. If any of your flowers are above the surface of the liquid for any length of time, they will oxidise and turn brown. Even if a lot of your flowers turn brown, this may affect the colour of your end product, but it won't affect the taste. The key is to drown the flowers in as much gin as is humanly possible.  

After a week, strain the gin through muslin into your sterilised bottle of choice. If you love the smell of gin and the smell of Elderflowers, you are in for a treat at this point. Honestly, the whole kitchen smelled wonderful for ages! Put the lid on the bottle, and pop your gin somewhere dark for as long as you can bear.

Theoretically, your Elderflower Gin will last for years. Not in our house, it won't! :)

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22 comments

  • Hello John, I suspect the variety you mention is the one with pink flowers? We have one of those on our allotment and we use the flowers to make elderflower drinks also. Regardless of that, I have had a good look around and cannot find any guidance for weight of fresh flowers, and I don’t want to suggest the dried weight because dried flowers are more concentrated than fresh. Instead I would just up the amount by a few flower heads. That part of the recipe isn’t particularly scientific anyway, as all flowers are different sizes. You just need to use enough to impart the flower fragrance to the gin. The way to maximise the elderflower infusion is not to leave it for longer (which makes it bitter) but to increase the flowers. So I would just up it to, say, 25 flowers or more. Incidentally if your flowers are pink, initially you get a lovely pink colour. However eventually that becomes more of a brown colour. You can reduce the impact of that by minimising the stems in the infusion. However if you decide to dilute the gin with tonic, it has a pinky hue again. Good luck!

    Bev Newman
  • Hi Diane, I suspect if you quickly ‘show’ the flowers to the gin, ie infuse for one day, you would get a taste of elderflower in the the gin. But I don’t think it would last long, the fragrance tends to evaporate very quickly. So it might work for making elderflower gin to consume very quickly afterwards, but not to keep long term. I have never made elderflower gin without lemons or sugar, and I wouldn’t recommend it. All the sugar in gin has been converted into alcohol in the manufacturing process, which is why neat gin isn’t the most pleasant of drinks and people generally dilute it with tonic. The elderflowers alone won’t be enough to mask that extremely strong alcoholic taste. I hope your second go including lemons and sugar is more successful.

    Bev
  • Hello Bev,
    In the recipe you say to use 15-20 flower heads. I’m guessing that you would say one flower head is the entire cyme inflorescence? I’m on the west-coast of British Columbia and hoping to do this recipe using our native subspecies of elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea), which I think might have slightly larger inflorescences than the regular type. Any idea (roughly) how many grams of flowers you would use with 750ml of gin?
    Thanks!

    John Geddert
  • Some recipes say leave only for 24 hours to infuse, but I did some a couple of weeks ago and left it about a week, as you advise. The top layer did go brown but I persevered. It tasted awful and we threw it away! I did cut off all the thicker stems and was left with just the finer ends with the flowers. I didn’t add sugar or lemon peel, so I don’t know if that made any difference. I’ve made limoncello before and that turned out lovely, so not sure what went wrong here. The kilner jar had been in the dishwasher, but not immediately before using, so I’m going to have another go with Milton and then will put in the sugar and lemon this time.

    Diane
  • Hi Lesley, yes it is. You will see mine is quite a murky green in the filtering image in the post, that was after one filter session only. If you want it to be more clear, filter it as many times as you want and it will get clearer each time. Alternatively if you’re a home brewer and you already have a Harris Filter you could use that. I also filter through coffee filters, muslin, cheesecloth… whatever I have about really. Commercial makers will have highly sophisticated filtering systems (or may not use the flowers themselves to make the gin at all) which is why we’re so used to seeing it sparkly clear. But you can bet it pretty clear with a few filtering sessions if you don’t want the murk. Also if you dilute it with tonic, it’s far less noticeable !

    Bev

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