Our friends at Makers & Brothers, the dashing purveyors of Irish design Jonathan and Mark Legge, like to keep things in the family. But they've generously shared their mother's recipe for elderflower cordial, a syrup that's the basis for a delicate, old-fashioned floral drink long beloved in Europe yet curiously little-known in the US. The Legges have also agreed to reveal their secret source for elderflowers. Word of warning: you may have to travel to Dublin for the full experience.
"Elderflower cordial has always been a favorite in our family; everybody from our granny to our dad loves the stuff. We learned from our mum, who has been making it for us since we were tiny," the brothers write in their blog. "To us it is the taste of carefree, long summer days."
Makers & Brothers' Elderflower Cordial
• 25 elderflower heads (elderflowers grow in large clusters; each cluster constitutes a head)*
• 3 lbs cane sugar
• 2 oz lemon juice
• 1 1/4 quarts boiling water
• 2 lemons (zest and slices)
*Elderflowers are the white clustered blossoms that bloom in June on elderberry shrubs, also known as elders. They're found in temperate to subtropical regions, and are common in the UK, Europe, and almost all over the US. This USDA map shows where elderberries thrive stateside.
To see how the cordial comes together, follow the instructions below.
Photos via Makers & Brothers.
Above: Begin by finding elderflowers in bloom.
Above: The Legges' elderflower source unveiled: "We climb the walls into our local ruined abbey." For more clues, visit the Shed, the Legges' shop in Abbey Court, in Blackrock County, Dublin, and ask them to point the way to the abbey and the elderberry tree.
Above: Elder branches against the blue skies of Dublin.
Above: The elderberry's flowers grow in large heads; each individual blossom has five petals.
Above: An oval willow basket woven by Kathleen McCormick gently holds the elderflowers.
Above: Domino, the Legge family dog, guards the day's pickings.
Above: The ingredients are ready to go.
Above: It's a good idea to shake out the elderflower heads, in case there are any creatures hiding inside. The stems can be left in place.
Above: Put the sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl, and pour in the boiling water.
Above: Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Above: Drop in the lemon slices and zest.
Above: Add the elderflower heads.
Above: Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Then cover and allow to steep for 24 hours.
Above: Strain the infusion through a fine sieve and pour the liquid into a decanter—shown here, a Carafe and Glass Set (plus additional glasses) by Jerpoint Glass of Kilkenny, Ireland. To serve, dilute the cordial to taste, using flat or sparkling water, and add lemon slices. Or add it to a gin and tonic, a vodka and soda, or even Champagne. Then raise a toast to the delights of summer.
Homemade cordial is, of course, the ideal (as is clambering around ruins to gather the flowers). But you can also buy a bottle of Belvoir Elderflower Cordial ($8.50 for 500 ml) from Jolly Grub.
Stateside, Tama Matsuoka Wong forages for elderflowers, too, at Foraging for Dessert.
This is an update of a post originally published July 30, 2013.