Elderflower Champagne

Elderflower champagne
Paul Harris / Getty Images
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yields: 4 quarts
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
5 Calories
0g Fat
1g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 5
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 26mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 3mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Made with the lacy, cream-colored flowers of the elderberry shrub (Sambucus nigra or S. canadensis), elderflower champagne is a naturally bubbly, lightly alcoholic beverage with a delicate taste.

It's worth noting that this fermented elderflower beverage isn't technically champagne because it doesn't contain the grape varieties used to make authentic champagne. But it's been referred to as elderflower champagne for generations, so that common name is being used here.

It takes over two weeks for the "champagne" to naturally ferment creating delicious bubbles, and you'll need to pay close attention to the mixture for the first week or so. Serve it chilled for a unique and refreshing drink on hot summer evenings.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound honey, or 1 1/2 pounds granulated sugar

  • 7 to 8 large elderflowers, each cluster about 6-inches in diameter, or double that amount if elderflower clusters are smaller

  • 4 cups filtered or non-chlorinated water, boiled

  • 12 cups cold filtered or non-chlorinated water

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar, or juice and rind of 2 large lemons, plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon wine, or 1 small pinch yeast, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Do not wash the elderberry flowers. It is their natural yeasts that will cause fermentation. Just shake off any insects and remove the thick stalks.

  3. Place the honey or sugar in a very large bowl and pour in the 2 pints of boiling water. Stir until the honey or sugar has completely dissolved.

  4. Add the 6 pints of cold water. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and the elderberry flowers.

  5. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 48 hours, stirring at least twice a day.

  6. By the end of these two days, you should see signs of fermentation: the top of the liquid will look frothy and bubbly, especially when you stir it. If the liquid is still completely still after 48 hours, add a very small pinch (just a few grains) of wine or baking yeast and wait another 48 hours, stirring occasionally, before proceeding to the next step.

  7. Pour the fermenting elderflower champagne through a finely meshed sieve to strain out the flowers (and lemon rind, if using).

  8. Use a funnel to help transfer the brew into clean plastic soda-type bottles with screw tops or thick ceramic or beer bottles with flip tops. Do not use corked wine bottles because elderflower champagne is quite capable of popping out the corks or worse—exploding the bottles. Leave at least an inch of headspace between the surface of the liquid and the rims of the bottles. Secure the tops.

  9. Leave at room temperature for a week, “burping” the bottles (opening briefly) at least once a day. After the week at room temperature, move them to the refrigerator, but keep “burping” the bottles occasionally for another week.

  10. Serve chilled or over ice.

Tips

  • Elderflower champagne will keep in the refrigerator for several months.
  • The earlier you drink it, the yeastier it will taste. Wait at least 2 weeks from bottling if you want it at its best.
  • The honey version takes slightly longer to ferment than the sugar version.
  • The final drink should be fizzy and lightly sweet, but not cloyingly so.

How Often Should You Burp Elderflower Champagne?

After bottling, the room temperature elderflower champagne should be burped several times a day to release excess gas and prevent explosions. After a week, the bottles can be transferred to the fridge and should be burped occasionally for another week.

How Do You Stop Elderflower Champagne From Exploding?

Naturally fermented elderflower champagne should be "burped" several times a day before the bottles are added to the fridge, and occasionally for another week after being chilled. Burp the bottles by briefly opening the top before replacing it again; this will help release any excess build-up of gas. Using proper bottles suitable for carbonated beverages will also help prevent explosions—quality plastic tends to resist pressure better than some glass bottles.