Let’s get this question out of the way first: What exactly are elderflowers? As the flower of the elder tree, perhaps their biggest claim to fame lies in the fact that they are the precursor to elderberries, of which your father smells. Elderflower is a popular flavor in Europe, lending its light sweetness to a wide array of juices, fizzy drinks, cordials and liquors, but it has yet to gain much attention here in the States.
In its international foods section, Wegmans stocks a sparkling elderflower pressé made by Belvoir Fruit Farms in the UK. A shapely glass bottle filled with translucent liquid, the package described the beverage within as “scented, refreshing and extremely quaffable.” What the hell, I thought. I’ll see what I can do with this.
We had some gin lying around, and with a vague memory of once seeing a Jamie Oliver recipe for gin and elderflower sherbet, I figured I’d give it a try. I muddled together gin and honey, topped off the glass with the translucent elderflower juice, and squeezed in a bit of lemon for good measure.
The results were phenomenal. Sweet — but subtly so. Sparkling — but just barely. Before having tasted this, I rolled my eyes whenever I heard something described as having a “floral” flavor. I am now a convert. This stuff tastes like flowers in the best imaginable way. One sip and your head starts swimming with visions of tiny blossoms in the late-afternoon light. It’s the kind of thing they’d serve at one of Gatsby’s garden parties — using bootleg gin, of course — to be enjoyed surrounded by men in white suits and women in sequined shift dresses, the sun not quite set over the isle of Manhattan. Summer’s nearly gone, but the night is young. Take small sips. Savor it.
END-OF-SUMMER ELDERFLOWER COCKTAIL
1 part gin
drizzle of honey
3 parts elderflower pressé
squeeze of lemon
In the bottom of a small glass, stir gin and honey together until most of the honey has dissolved. Add elderflower pressé. Top with a squeeze of lemon. Serve with an ice cube, if you feel fancy.