Making elderflower syrup at home is easy and you will get the best result – you only need 2 days and some elderflower blossoms. Growing up in Austria means growing up with elderflower syrup. Either store-bought or homemade, almost everybody has a bottle of elderflower syrup ready to use.
Mostly, people are using it to make a non-alcoholic beverage, adding some tap water or seltzer to make it a low-sugar soda.
I was surprised that this is not a thing in the US. Instead of carrying home hundreds of soda cans, we would buy 1 quart of fruit syrup (elderflower is my favorite) and simply add tap water or sparkling water to the syrup to thin it.
The syrup would last for months and is way healthier than the overly sweet sodas, which I will never get used to.
Browsing through the supermarket isles here in Boston made me realize that fruit syrups, especially elderflower cordial, may be a European thing. So, I was constantly on the lookout for an elderflower bush to make my own syrup. They are blooming in May and June (at least here in the Boston area).
Finally, I found one! Now my dreams of elderflower champagne, Hugo cocktails, and a simple low-sugar elderflower lemonade are reality. Oh, how did I miss these aromatic blossoms that taste like summer in a glass.
You can also use this syrup to drizzle over the fluffiest pancakes or delicious waffles, a fruity dutch baby, a berry pavlova or to dip Kaiserschmarrn in. It’s also great so sweeten a smoothie, a frozen yogurt, or to add it to homemade ice cream.
Recipe updated in June 2019, see recipe notes.
Making elderflower syrup at home is easy and you will get the best result. Make sure to use blossoms that are fully opened and not browning. They will make the best taste. The citric acid adds some zing and acts as a preservative to make the syrup keep longer. If you can’t get your hands on citric acid (see note for sources), you can omit it and simply add some lemon juice instead to balance the taste. Make sure to store the syrup in the fridge if it doesn’t contain any citric acid, otherwise a cool place is fine.
To serve, mix the elderflower syrup with tap water or sparkling water (1 part syrup + 7-8 parts water), and add some ice cubes or lemon slices if you like. My favorite drink is white wine mixed with some elderflower syrup and sparkling water, garnished with a lemon slice. It’s called “Kaiserspritzer” in Austria.
You can also use this syrup to drizzle over pancakes or waffles, a dutch baby, a berry pavlova or to dip pieces of Kaiserschmarrn in. It’s also great so sweeten a smoothie, a frozen yogurt, or to add it to homemade ice cream.
Recipe: Ursula | lilvienna.com
- 650 g/23 oz (about 3 cups) granulated sugar
- 430 ml/15.2 oz (1 3/4 cups) water
- 23 g/0.8 oz (about 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp) food-grade citric acid (see note, updated)
- 15 big elderflower heads (umbles), if using more, the more intense the flavor will be
- 1/2 to 1 organic lemon, cut into slices (optional)
- 1430 g/50.5 oz (about 6.5 cups) granulated sugar
- 946 ml/1 quart (4 cups) water
- 50 g/1.76 oz (about 3.5 tablespoons) food-grade citric acid (see note)
- 30 big elderflower heads (umbles), if using more, the more intense the flavor will be
- 1 organic lemon, cut into slices (optional)
- Remove any insects or debris from the elderflower blossoms. Do not wash them, as they will lose a lot of flavor.
- Combine sugar, water, and citric acid in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved (no need to boil). Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
- Trim the thick stems away from the elderflower heads and discard. Try to remove as much of the stems as you can.
- Add the blossoms and the lemon slices (if using) to a large glass jar or a big bowl.
- Pour the cool syrup into the jar/bowl with the elderflower blossoms. Make sure that the blossoms are immersed in the syrup. A small plate can help press them down. Cover the jar/bowl with a lid or a tea towel and let it steep at cool temperature (a cool room or the fridge) for 48 hours, stirring the syrup once daily.
- Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a cheesecloth or a paper towel into a clean jar/bottle.
- Bottle the syrup – use tight screw tops. This syrup will usually keep for 1 year as is, stored in a dark, cool place (cellar/fridge). To make sure it keeps this long or even longer, after straining, you can boil the syrup for 5 minutes in a large pot before filling it into into bottles. Once opened, store the bottle in the fridge.
I use granulated food-grade citric acid (looks like granulated sugar). You can find food-grade citric acid at most supermarkets in the canning section. It is often located near the pectin and other canning supply. Sometimes it is available under the name of "sour salt" in the spice aisle. I got mine at a coop market from the bulk bins where they keep the spices.
I slightly reduced the amount of citric acid from 2 Tablespoons (25 g/ 0.88 oz) to 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons (23 g/0.8 oz). I don’t like dull tasting syrups so I tend to be generous with adding citric acid. The updated syrup recipe will meet the taste of most people while some may find the previous version a little sour. Plus, I added the recipe for 1,8 liters/7.5 cups syrup and some notes on shelf life.
Did you follow this recipe? You could share your result here. All you need to do is take a picture with your smartphone and send it to [email protected] Mark made the cordial: Hi Ursula! Thanks so much for posting the cordial recipe. I really like the flavor! A couple ounces in a glass of soda water is a perfect summertime refreshment. I've given some to one of my best friends, who happens to manage a local pub. She made a cocktail with it. Delicious!"
Ah, thank you so much! I have a ton of elderberry bushes growing in our yard here in Kansas City, Missouri. Around here they line the roadsides, you can spot them as you drive in the spring thanks to their beautiful creamy flowers. My husband is currently infusing a bunch of them in vodka, but I want to make the syrup as well and now I’ve got a great recipe to try!
That’s great, I didn’t know that elderberry bushes are groing in Missouri ;-) Oh, the vodka infusion sounds like a winner!! I always have a bottle of elderflower syrup ready to use in my fridge (I keep it in the fridge once I’ve opened the bottle). In Austria, I love to drink a type of white wine spritzer called ‘Kaiserspritzer’, which is basically a mix of white wine, sparkling water and a dash of elderflower syrup. Hope you will try the syrup recipe and thanks so much for your comment.
This recipe worked out very well with the generous amount of the citric acid. I made a batch with lemons and one without both are very good. I’m in St. Louis, Missouri and planted two elder bushes last year specifically for making flower and berry cordials, syrups, and jams. I also make cold press cordial from honeysuckle. Thank you for taking the time to make this post.
Thanks so much for your comment and letting me know how it turned out. Happy to hear that you like the result. Oh, and having elder bushes growing on your own property is a delight. My parents have about five and I am jelous every spring ;-)
This recipe has worked amazingly. I just recently moved to Austria from Australia, and had never had Elderflower syrup, as they don’t grow there. Now I’ve had a chance to make it, and everyone is saying my syrup is the best they have tasted.
Wow, I’m so happy to hear that! thanks so much for leaving me a comment. This is my favorite homemade syrup as well. And yes, I think elderbushes prefer a rather cool environment. Ursula
hello Kaylene, elderberry grows in Austratia,we make syrup and cordial from the flowers and berries…it grow like a weed,very fast….glad you have discovered it
Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I used juice of 1 lemon, and all the zest from that lemon into the syrup mixture.
Also, I pulled all the flowers off the embrels except for the very tiniest stems, and the syrup covered them easily.
I discovered Elderberries when I lived upstate New York where you can find the growing along the road, and I had a couple of huge bushes/trees on my property next to our pond. When I moved to Virginia I couldn’t find any growing wild so I promptly bought several plants and they are growing in abundance now! They are relatively carefree, however, here in Virginia the japanese beetles will attack them, but I just use an organic spray. Before now I only used them for Elderberry jelly and syrup, but the Elderflower syrup is delightfully delicate and, yes, tastes like spring!
FYI: Here is a link to the nursery where I ordered mine plants from: https://botanyshop.com/ (They are located in Joplin, Missouri. Remembering the devastating tornado of 2011, I like the idea of supporting a company that no doubt suffered damage.
I found this the most reasonable source and they have quite a few varieties.
PS – Thank you also for the other Austrian recipes for baked goods, too!!
So great to hear that you like the elderflower syrup and that you were able to plant elder bushes in Virginia. And thanks so much for posting the link! Maybe some of the readers are interested in planting some on their own. I just love the smell and taste of elderflowers.
To store this, do I need to water bath can the syrup? Thank you!
I never do. I prepare everything cold and bottle the syrup into clean, sterilized bottles. So far, they never had mold or anything when stored in a dark cool place (cellar, fridge). They last at least one year.
But to make extra certain, you can of course water bath the bottles or simply cook the ready syrup for a few minutes and then bottle them.
Hope you’ll try it, it’s delicious ;-)
I don’t think this grows in my area. Can you tell me what the weight of the flower buds is? I’m assuming it would be fresh weight, so I would need to adjust if buying dry flowers online.
Yeah, I know that this can be an issue. In Boston, I only found one bush…. thought the climate would be perfect there. So, this recipe works with fresh flower buds only. Also, I am a measuring nut (I literally weigh anything), but I’ve never weighed these buds :) But if you would be interested in growing an elder bush in the long-term, somebody above has commented where to buy a bush online for growing it. Maybe they would still grow in your area when planted. I know, this doesn’t really help you right now, but maybe in the future? So sorry that I can not help you any further, Ursula
Hey there! The elderflower have come here in South Carolina. I have two huge bowls of de-stemmed flowers, hoping to can lots of jars of this liquid gold. I’m having some trouble with the flour to syrup ratio. Do you have any idea how many measured cups might be equivalent to 15 heads. I figure too many flowers steeping is definitely better than too little, but also want to make the most of the flours I’ve got. Thanks! Banja Jane <3 :)
Claire below has a measuring for you, in case you didn’t notice the comment (it’s not in reply to yours).
It’s somehow difficult to say, depending on how thoroughly you cut off the stems and how large the elderflower heads really are. I would say 15 elderflower heads – the way I use them (cutting off the thick stem but leaving the head as whole) – will roughly make 3 cups (750 ml), medium packed. Neither do I press them into a jar tightly nor do I simply through them into the jar and leave them as they are. I press them down just a little. When pouring the syrup over, at first, they are fully covered, but then the flowers will move to the top, leaving about 1/2 the jar ’empty’. I always put a dessert plate (or a glass lid,…) on top to press the flowers down and make sure all the flowers are covered with syrup.
And yes, as you’ve said: More elderflowers give more taste, so simple use a little more. There is no harm in using too much. I have some syrup steeping right now and will bottle them today. :-)
Hi. A recipe I have reckons that 20 elferflower heads weigh about 250g or 9oz, if that’s any help!
Thanks, didn’t know that (and never measured their weight). Using a little more doesn’t harm either ;-)
Hi! I have some elderberry bushes in my yard in New York and am making the syrup. What is the impact if they steep longer than 2 days? I’m about to travel and they’ll be in my fridge 5 days before I can strain them. Thanks!
The longest I’ve let them steep was for 2 days at room temperature – the taste was still ok but I’d not recommend it. A cooler place is much better. So, I’d say you can let them steep for 5 days in the fridge, even though this is quite long. But please make sure that the flowers are submerged in the syrup – put a weight like the lid from a glass canning jar, a small plate, or a small cup/bowl on top. If the blossoms are not submerged, they will get brown and could impact the flavor in a negative way. Also make sure if you are plannig such a long steeping time to cut off any thick stems. They could also interfere with the taste. Other than that, it should work. Heads up: I’ve never tried it and these are just my guesses ;-)
Thanks for posting this recipe. I first tried elderflower syrup while visiting my sister in Bury St. Edmond England and I fell in love with it! I don’t have the fresh flowers readily available to me so I have been making my cordial using dried elderflowers. The color of the syrup is a bit darker but still the taste is wonderful!
I’ve never tried making the coridal with drid elderflowers. Good to know that this works well too. I love the taste soooo much. Have you ever tried to stir a spoon or two into prosecco or sparkling wine? OMG!
Thank you for sharing this Ursula. Can’t wait to make it. I grew up in rural New Zealand in the 60s so, didn’t grow up drinking store bought fizzy drinks and have never really developed a taste for them as l find the bubbles harsh and unpleasant. Have just bottled my first batch of elderflower champagne in years and the smell of it has reminded me how much l love it. I’ve discovered a neighbour’s unused elder tree so have decided to make some cordial as well. I normally don’t have enough elderflowers as, l try to leave about ⅔ of the blossoms on the tree for the insects and the birds (and the elderberry syrup for winter coughs and colds). Thank you so much for the comment about the Hugo cocktail and the Kaiserschmarrn as they’re both now on my list of things to try.
I always feel like the luckiest person on earth when discovering things like an “unused” elder bush ;-) What a treasure! I hope you like the syrup. To date, this is still my favorite syrup. It’s great in cocktails (like the Hugo cocktail), mocktails and to use as a maple-syrup alternative. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks so much for leaving a comment! Ursula
Thank you for this! I’m going to try it this week. Do you think cream of tartar could be substituted for the citric acid? I have a ton of it on hand (and no citric acid), and am looking for ways to use it.
Great that you want to try it. No, you can not substitute cream of tartar. It’s something entirly different. So you have to find another use for it ;-) Scones?
You can use lemon juice instead of citric acid but this might influence the shelf life. Hope you try the syrup. Ursula
Ah okay, I just thought since cream of tartar is also an acid and use for preserving syrups sometimes, it could work, but I’m very new to all this. I have some lemon juice, so I’ll try that instead!
Ah ok – I’ve never heard of using cream of tartar for presering syrups….. I wouldn’t try it here though. Citric acid is definitely my first choice but regular lemon juice works too. Simply adjust the amout to your taste. The syrup shouldn’t taste dull nor acidic :) Have fun! Ursula
I made it yesterday with lemon juice, and after only 24 hours in the fridge it already tastes FANTASTIC! Thanks again for the recipe, and your helpful responses!
Happy to hear that! I love to add it the syrup to sparkling water. It also tastes great over ice cream, white wine + sparkling water or to use as syrup for cocktails. Thanks for your comment and trust in my recipe :)
I have two black elderberry bushes and one of black lace elderberry. They are starting to flower, delicate pink flowers, without much smell. Will they work for the syrup?
I only have black elderberry bushes around, which smell quite intense. Those are perfect for making syrup. I have never made this syrup with any other type of elderberry. But if they don’t smell intense, there is no point in making syrup of it. It simply won’t taste like nice. So I would stick to the white blossoms of the black elderberry bush. Hope you’ll try the syrup, Ursula
Thanks Ursula! I wish I could attach some pictures of the bushes. All flowers are pinkish! We just planted them last fall so perhaps the scent will come next year? After they have some time to go through an entire yearly cycle? I can hope! I specifically got them so I can make syrup…
I hope so too! Let’s hope for the best. Good luck, Ursula
Vodka? Hmm… I am making some syrup according to the recipe on this page. But I am on a keto diet so I can’t drink any. Vodka is keto friendly.
To save time waiting for the syrup to cool, you can dissolve the sugar and citric acid in half the water then add cool water to make up the volume.
Exactly! I usually make the syrup and while it cools, I pick the blossoms – also no waiting time :)
Have you ever substituted honey for the sugar in this recipe? I was just thinking that it would be a great substitute but just not sure if it would take the full amount. Or maybe half honey and half sugar?
I have never tried making the syrup with honey but I read that others have made it with success (same amount). I would strongly suggest that you cook the syrup before botteling since sugar is the main preserving element in this syrup. Let me know how it tastes in case you give it a try. Best, Ursula