Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Your cocktail smelt of elderflowers

I just discovered elderflower liqueur, which oddly enough seems to be the new big thing in cocktails, but I discovered it via the Sunday Philosophy Club, the series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. In one installment, Isabel Dalhousie and some neighbors discuss making elderflower cordials, a non-alcoholic beverage. Apparently elderflower cordials are a big thing in Scotland, if Smith is to be believed.

So I became interested in elderflowers and discovered the St. Germain brand of elderflower liqueur - apparently it's quite recent in development and ridiculously artisinal:

Fine artisanal French liqueur made from 100% fresh, handpicked elderflowers. Subtle yet complex flavor that is low in sugar content, roughly half that of other liqueurs. 
The first of its kind, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur is the creation of Robert Cooper, third generation distiller and former owner of Chambord liqueur. 
Cooper began developing St-Germain in 2001 after watching the surge in popularity of nonalcoholic elderflower cordials in top cocktails accounts in London, Sydney and New York. He knew a liqueur made exclusively from the fresh elderflowers would taste better, be more stable, versatile and truer to the flower’s unique flavor profile than the sugar and water-based cordials. Shortly thereafter, Cooper set out, using his savoir faire of fine liqueurs, particularly ones produced in France, to create St-Germain, the world’s first elderflower liqueur. 
Refusing to settle for cultivated, freeze dried or frozen blossoms, which is what the non-alcoholic cordials use, Cooper discovered that using 100% wild elderflowers, created a superior liqueur. The process of gathering the delicate blossoms for St-Germain is a carefully orchestrated sequence of events, which must be completed during the short three to four day span when the blossoms peak. In the Alps, bohemian farmers handpick the elderflowers and transport them via bicycle to depots, or private homes equipped with scales and special crates where they are meticulously guarded before arriving at the distillery to be used for the production of St-Germain.
Considering that the creation of this liqueur involves hand-picking and bicycle transportation by bohemian Alpine farmers, it's quite a bargain - you can get this massive fancy bottle of the stuff for under $30.

And the liqueur is so new that it's still possible to invent your own cocktail recipes with it, which I did - I invented what I call the Elderflower Citrus Mimosa. The classic brunch mimosa is typically made with champagne, but I actually think that all wines are too grape-y for elderflower liqueur - it's best with citrus fruits.

The Elderflower Citrus Mimosa
  • 1 part elderflower liqueur
  • 2 parts fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 parts club soda
  • splash of orange juice
Serve over ice in a cocktail glass.
Delicious! And when people look at you quizzically when you mention "elderflowers" you can point out that they come from the same plant as elderberries, you know, as in "your father smelt of elderberries." If they don't get that reference they don't deserve any elderflower liqueur type drinks.