What Is Elderflower Champagne?

Kathy Dowling

Elderflower champagne is a sparkling drink similar to lemonade that is slightly alcoholic and is made by combining the white flower heads found on the elder tree, or Sambucus nigra, with lemons and sugar as well as cider vinegar and water. There are a few variations in recipes, some of which involve using dried yeast, yet, despite these different ingredients, the champagne is always easy to make, even at home. Once made and bottled, the sparkling wine generally takes approximately two weeks to mature and ferment, and continues to become more alcoholic the longer it is kept in storage. It can usually last up to a couple of months when stored in a dry, cool place and is best served chilled, straight from the refrigerator.

A champagne bar.
A champagne bar.

Depending on how much you want to produce, making a decent amount of elderflower champagne requires using large quantities of ingredients, so it’s best to use a bucket or large pot where everything can be easily combined. To make approximately 2.6 gallons (10 liters) of elderflower champagne, four large elderflower heads need to be freshly picked from an elder tree and then cleaned for any bugs or insects. Once cleaned, the flower heads can then be combined with two lemons, 2.2 lbs. (1 kg) of sugar, and 4 tablespoons (60 mL) of white wine vinegar, in approximately 2.6 gallons (10 liters) of cold water. The bucket then needs to be covered with a lid or cloth, and left to rest for approximately 24 to 36 hours, after which time it will be ready for storage in sterilized bottles for approximately two weeks. There are variations in recipes that sometimes use yeast; however, the flowers from the elder tree have natural occurring yeast, making the ingredient inessential for fermentation to occur.

A bottle of elderflower champagne.
A bottle of elderflower champagne.

The elder tree is found in different parts of the world including North Africa, Asia, and Europe, and, for many centuries, its flowers and berries have been used for both consumption and medicinal purposes. Apart from making elderflower champagne, elderflowers are popularly used to make cordials and teas, and, as they are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C, are largely consumed during the winter months to boost the immune system and prevent colds and influenza. Elderflower is also used for detoxification and purification of the body, and, since the time of the Egyptians, has been a great remedy for skin blemishes and improving complexions, making it a popular ingredient found in many skin cosmetics.

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