Wildcrafted: Elderberry Liqueur

2020 was a banner year here for elderflowers and, later, elderberries. The amazing bounty allowed me to make wine, syrup, and  – a first – liqueur. After nearly six months of infusing, the liqueur was ready for bottling!

With the timing of the elderberry harvest in late summer, I ended up making two batches of the liqueur, about four days apart. In the finished product, I can actually tell that the berries harvested later were riper, infusing the liquid with sweeter berry flavor and darker color. The last harvest of berries saw them nearing the point of overripeness and requiring more effort to pick out berries that had burst or shriveled (and some that had fermented on the bush!).

That said, I am not complaining about a speck of the effort – which included pulling each berry off the stem – because the reward greatly outweighed the work required. The finished liqueur is a lovely ruby red color. Unsweetened, it was a bit hot (likely due to the vodka used as the base), with subtle spice notes; with a generous amount of sweetening, however, it became a complex, warming cordial with distinctive fruit flavor.

This project required a bit of patience, as most infusions do, but it made the tasting event that much more enjoyable. Want to try making this yourself? Find the recipe here.