Rich, tart elderberry syrup and sumac are the perfect foils to the sweet Bendictine in this carbonated cocktail.
Artisanal cocktails have never been more popular, and those carefully crafted beverages have begun to shine a spotlight on their vibrant, specialty ingredients. With The Wildcrafted Cocktail, Ellen Zachos teaches readers how to incorporate common foraged flowers, berries and roots into their own, one-of-a-kind mixed drinks. There are 45 homemade cocktail recipes in this beautiful, full-color book, alongside 50 simple recipes for bitters, syrups, garnishes — anything you might need to make these drinks your own. Bring a natural, delicious twist to your glass!
Elderflowers are all the rage these days. I get it. They’re delicate and pretty and have a seductive flavor. But what about the elderberries? It’s almost as if people have forgotten all about the bold fruit that follows those delicate blooms.
Maybe it’s because the flavor of raw elderberries is slightly to extremely awful. Thankfully, someone figured out that the application of heat and the addition of sugar makes for a beautiful dark purple/blue syrup with a sweet, deep, fruity flavor. Some say the taste is similar to that of blackberries, but I think they’re fooled by the color. Elderberries have their own worthy flavor.
Benedictine is an herbal liqueur whose main ingredients are angelica, hyssop, and lemon balm. Is it any wonder a forager would be drawn to its complex, plant-based flavors? It’s a very sweet liqueur, so I only use it in small doses. Here it adds a subtle herbal background to the more assertive elderberry. Plus, it inspired the cocktail’s name.
To make one drink:
• 2 ounces vodka
• 1 ounce elderberry syrup
• 1 teaspoon Benedictine
• 2 ounces sumac soda (recipe below)
Combine the vodka, elderberry syrup, and Benedictine in a shaker full of ice and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass and top with sumac soda.
Note: When preparing elderberries for juicing, be sure to remove all the big stems. And one more word of warning: Elderberry juice stains, so work carefully or wear an apron!
Elderberries (Sambucus spp.) ripen in large umbels of blue/black fruit, making it easy to pick several cups very quickly. There are different species of blue-fruited elderberries and they’re all edible. Red-fruited elderberries are more controversial. Some people say they’re toxic and others say they’re not. But everyone agrees they don’t taste very good, so don’t bother!
Forager’s Tip: After harvesting your elderberries, put them in the freezer. It’s much easier to separate the frozen fruit from the stems than it is when the berries are fresh.
To make sumac soda, you need to first make sumac-ade, then run the chilled sumac-ade through a soda siphon to carbonate it. I’m often asked if you can do this with a SodaStream, and while the answer is a qualified yes, I don’t recommend it. First of all, it voids the SodaStream warranty. Second (and more importantly), you may have a big, messy explosion on your hands if the liquid isn’t unsweetened and 100-percent clear.
Makes 1 quart
• 2 cups dried sumac berries
• 1 quart room-temperature water
To make sumac-ade, combine the sumac berries with the water and stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Let the mixture sit for several hours (or overnight), until the infusion is dark pink in color. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter and refrigerate.
Sumac-ade can be very sour. Taste it before carbonating and if you want a sweeter soda, add sugar incrementally until it tastes good to you. You want to preserve the tart flavor, so it’s better to start slow rather than oversweeten.
Excerpted from The Wildcrafted Cocktail, © by Ellen Zachos, photography by ©Keller+Keller Photography, used with permission from Storey Publishing.
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