The Elderberry Bush is a small bush, peppered with delicate white flowers (Elderflower) that flourishes widely in countries such as the UK and France. The flowers are sweet, honey-scented clusters of white that, when used fresh, make deliciously sweet cordials and liqueur – the famous and globally known of which is probably St Germain’s.
Elderflower is floral and light to taste. In the context of gin, it is more apparent on the nose but also serves as a useful floral botanical to add soft freshness to a gin, as opposed to using flowers like rose or honeysuckle, that can sometimes veer into more perfumed territory. At East Imperial we have used Elderflower as a key ingredient in our Royal Botanic Tonic giving it a sweet floral note.
Both the flowers of the elderberry plant (Sambucus canadensis) and the berries (when cooked), are edible, says Daniel Cunningham, a horticulturalist with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension. "I'm into the flowers for infusing cocktails or dressing up a dish, or foraging the berries for syrup or jelly," he says. But the berries are toxic raw, as well as the leaves, bark and wood.
Elderflowers have been used for years in medicines around the world. They contain a variety of antioxidants (including vitamin C), and are often used to treat respiratory illnesses – from colds to sinusitis. They are also thought to contain antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Feeling inspired? Why not try some of our Royal Botanic Tonic cocktail recipes.