Elderflower Champagne Recipe

Elderflower champagne

This recipe is adapted from Roger Phillips’ excellent book, “Wild Food”. If there is a tastier, more refreshing, easier to make summer drink than this, please let me know! All my guided walks kick off with a glass of this “efferv-essence of summer”!

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Ingredients

  • 8 – 12  Elderflower heads in full bloom – if you can pick them on a sunny morning, so much the better. Shake them free of insects or other bits but don’t wash them. This recipe also works for meadowsweet, japanese rose, flowering currant, honeysuckle, mugwort, hawthorn blossom, sweet woodruff, sweet cicely and any other safe-to-eat aromatic blossom and/or leaf you care to try. You could also use a combination of different aromatics to reflect your locale. For subtler tasting plants, just scale up the quantity of plant material.
  • 4.5 litres (1 gallon) cold water
  • 1 Lemon – it’s juice plus it’s skin quartered. A really nice variation is to add 5 tablespoons of sea buckthorn juice instead. It gives a slightly tropical tang to the whole affair.
  • 650g (1.5lb) white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar. I sometimes use infused vinegars to add further dimensions to the mix – pineapple weed vinegar adds a lovely tropical hint.

Dissolve the sugar in a little of the water – it will help if you warm it then allow it to cool.

Then simply mix it with all the other ingredients in a large jug, bucket or basin.

Leave covered for 4 days (preferably somewhere cool or you run the risk of the surface going mouldy – it isn’t a disaster if this happens: just scrape off the flowers that will have formed a “carpet” on the surface, and continue).

Strain and pour into clean screw-top bottles – plastic fizzy drink bottles are ideal. You can use flip top glass bottles, but these make it harder to monitor pressure build-up in the bottle, and are considerably more hazardous than plastic bottles in the event that they do explode under the pressure. Leaving a few inches of air in the bottles makes explosions a little less likely.

Leave at an ambient temperature for 4-10 days, testing after 6 to make sure it doesn’t get too fizzy. This is where plastic bottles are really useful, as you can feel the pressure without opening them. If the dimples at the bottom begin to round out, you urgently need to release some pressure! Don’t use bottles with corks, as the pressure will just push the corks out.

Its quite important to check the bottles regularly as they will explode if you you forget about them. Most experienced wild champagne makers have  an exploding bottle story! Its something of a foraging rites-of -passage. One foraging friend even boasts a scar near her eye from an exploding glass bottle. You’ve been warned!

Once you feel the pressure building, gently unscrew the lid every few days to decompress. Be ready to quickly screw it back tight before you loose your precious liquid in a foamy fountain! Let off enough pressure to feel there is no imminent danger of explosion, which shouldn’t be all of the pressure. If you constantly depressurise, your champagne will become flat, so don’t get too nervous.

If you are storing your champagne in a cool place it may need another week or so to get going, so be patient – the natural yeast in the flowers is doing the work and can take a wee while to get going.

The longer you leave it fermenting, the stronger it will be in alcohol. Once you are happy with it, keep it in the fridge to slow down fermentation.

When is it ready to drink? That’s up to you. It is a living thing, evolving from light, low-alcohol drinking after a week of fermenting, to stronger, starting-to-get-vingary at about 5 or 6 weeks. For me, the sweet spot for drinking is between 2 and 4 weeks, but you can slow it right down by keeping it in the fridge once its to your liking.

Once you have opened a bottle and drunk some, you can re-seal the bottle and leave it to ferment back to full fizziness. This is quite unlikely, as its delicious and very more-ish!

Drink chilled on a sunny day with sunny friends.

It makes a good mixer for gin, and is great for topping up cocktails with a bit of fizz.

Wild flower champagne infusing. Flowering currant and magnolia blossoms here, with a bit of sea buckthorn juice for acidity, and a tickle of wormwood for badass bitter backnotes.

Read my Drinker’s Guide to Elderflowers and elderberries

Browse more wild booze recipes

66 Comments

  • Looks yummy, does it get naturally alcoholic? Must buy some jars, looks a little like moonshine in them jars! This has caught my attention, must make some!

  • celia burney says:

    I originally made this from F.Marian McNeill’s Recipes from Scotland but lost the recipe when my son appropriated the book when he left home.
    after trawling through loads of footery over-complicated recipes on the net I finally found yours…exactly as my original recipe.

    Thank you so much.

  • Laura says:

    I so can’t wait to try this! I’m just waiting in the blooms to appear!

  • Jo Baybut (William's mum!) says:

    That’s my 1st ever batch if elderflower champagne on the go, now to make some cordial too! Hope to see you when you are next up in this neck of the woods!

    • mark says:

      Excellent! I’m sure it will be delicious. Still looking at summer dates for Aberdeenshire, but definitely coming up for fungi forays in the autumn (see events calendar if you haven’t already booked!) Cheers, Mark

  • Mr Fitz says:

    Do you really only need four heads? Does more increase the flavour? Thanks!

    • mark says:

      Hi, Yes, these proportions work. You can add more, but you’ll have to keep a close eye out for exploding bottles when the ferments starts to happen. Mark

  • Mr Fitz says:

    ok cool! so no glass bottles then!

  • Christine says:

    Hi Mark, I made some about 3 weeks ago, for the first time. Had a taste this week and unfortunately had to throw the whole lot out as it had a really strong vinegar flavour. Recipe same as above, only difference was I used 2 tablespoons of white wine viegar, it was really fizzy so don’t doubt that it fermented and smelt good. Any ideas on why it tasted so nasty? Cheers, Christine

    • mark says:

      Hi Christine, This can happen. Sometimes its to do with the time of picking, sometimes the individual plant (some have “odd” character – it is the witches tree remember!). Most often, its because its been left too long at warmer temperatures while fermenting. Sometimes the lemon can go off too when the weather is warm. Citric acid (from any homebrew suppliers) instead of lemon can help with this issue. Generally, when the weather is warm, I try to drink mine asap after it gets fizzy – or put in the fridge to slow fermentation.

    • Nick Barber says:

      Christine…I had this problem once…the only time a whole batch (rather than the odd bottle) weren’t top-notch in about ten years of making.
      It came down to he fact that I didn’t take enough care sterilising the (glass) bottles I was using.
      I use VWP now,but if you don’t like chemicals,a thorough wash then heating in an oven hen leaving to slowly cool will do the trick.

  • Joe says:

    Hi this recipe sound great. How do you stop it from getting too fizzy? Once it is fizzy enough do you drink it or treat it somehow?
    Thanks
    Joe

  • Mary O'Callaghan says:

    How should this be stored once its fermented? Have made some, not tasted it yet, only on day 3!

  • Rita Williams says:

    Could you stand the jugs or bowls for the 4 days in cold water and keep adding ice? I am going to have a go at making this, first time ever making home brew.

    • mark says:

      Hi Rita,
      No need – keep it simple. Warm (ambient) temperature helps the infusion/fermentation. If the flowers/lemon start to go mouldy, just skim them off asap, strain through a fine mesh and bottle. Still tastes/keeps fine. Alcohol production inhibits bacteria.
      Cheers
      Mark

  • Linda says:

    Hi,

    It says test after 6 days once it’s been bottled to make sure it doesn’t get too fizzy. What if it is too fizzy – do you put it in the fridge to stop it fermenting?

    • mark says:

      Hi Linda,

      Its never “too fizzy” for drinking, its just the danger of the bottles exploding. Once the plastic bottles feel really taut (usually after about 1 week ambient in bottles), I unscrew to let the fizz off, tighten up again, and store in the fridge. Not only does this slow fermentation, it means you’ll see them every time you open the fridge and be reminded to check the pressure and let some off if necessary. Also, should one happen to “blow”, at least it is contained in your fridge!
      Mark.

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I was looking for information on the health properties of the elderflower and I found your website. …and since my family loves to make home-brews we’ll definitely be making an attempt at this elderflower champagne! Looks easy enough, which is partially what makes it so appealing. Also, if you say it’s the best summer drink, I’ll take your word for it.

    (By the way, I love all the different words and ways of speech you folks use over there in Scotland!)

    Mary, from Wisconsin

    • mark says:

      Thanks Mary, hope you enjoy it. I’m not aware of many health benefits of elderflowers, but the berries are full of vit C and antioxidants I believe. The foliage and twigs of elder are toxic, so nothing will be very good for you if you don’t remove a good proportion of them – though i’m not super-fastidious and have come to no harm!

  • Jodie says:

    Great recipe!! I substituted for cherry blossoms! And it worked a treat!! Thanks for the recipe mark and the amazing foraging trip in roseland!
    Jodie

  • Vanese Gordon says:

    Have just strained and bottled my first batch. Taste is magnificent already! Can’t wait for unveiling in a few days once fizz has happened. I’m a bit of an anti-plastics person, so have opted for used screw top carbonated water and wine bottles. I’ll let you know how that works out.
    I’d like to try other flowers as well. Any suggestions? Do all flowers naturally contain yeasts? Where can I read up yeast content in flowers? Thanking you in advance.

    • mark says:

      Most flowers will work, but with different results according to when and where you pick them. Sweet cicely makes a nice anise-based fizz.

      • Vanese Gordon says:

        Thank you very much for getting back to me. I will look for it as I’m not sure it grows where I live.

  • Vanese Gordon says:

    And, just in case it isn’t obvious — I’m brimming over with gratitude.
    Thank you so much for the wonderful site full of inspiration!
    Cheers.

  • Sarah Howells says:

    Hi there, fab recipe! How long can you keep this? Would it keep for several months? Thank you, Sarah

  • Linda says:

    Have made a batch about a week ago but not there’s little white cloudy clumps in the bottles. There’s still no fizz in the drinks. Is this batch ok?

    Thanks
    Linda

  • Alex Hall says:

    Hi Mark,

    Do you need to sterilise the plastic bottles?
    If so,how do you go about doing this?

    Thanks,Alex

  • Lynne Reynolds says:

    Hello there
    Can you tell me, how long this keeps for. Thank you

  • Steve says:

    Hi,
    When first bottling if i use plastic bottles can i later put into propper Champagne bottles? or should I go with the Champagne bottles from the start.

    • mark says:

      You can go with champagne bottles, but be very aware of the ongoing fermentation. The plastic bottles can be “burped”, but champagne bottles not so easily – and if they explode consequences can be serious!

  • Des says:

    Hello, Can you dry the elderflowers by just hanging them, to use later? Thanks Des

    • mark says:

      Hi Des, Yes – in a warm, airy place. I’d recommend doing it in paper bags, or over a container in order to catch the pollen.

      • Alex says:

        Hi Mark,
        Would this be achievable with a dehydrator?
        My partner and I have just finished our first batch and are completely hooked! Just looking to stock up if possible as we’re surrounded by more elder than anyone could physically use!

        • Mark Williams says:

          Yes, elderflowers dry well and still make good champagne. Keep the temperature as low as practicable while dehydrating, or place the umbels on newspaper (so you catch the pollen etc) in sunny windowsills. Remember that every flower you pick is an elderberry you can’t pick in autumn, and that humans are not the only species that appreciates the abundant generosity of elders! 🙂

  • Linda Jones says:

    Just bottled my very first batch using the pink Elderflower… I just upped the number of heads and used 6 instead of 4.. (The pink flowering type seems to be less dense than the white, so I thought I should add a couple more…) So far – so good!! Even at this early stage it tastes gorgeous…

  • Wonderful! We have loads of elderflowers right now and have always wanted to try making something like this. Thank you for the recipe and for patiently answering so many questions in the comments. 🙂 <3

  • Andrew says:

    Mark,

    I would rather use glass bottles because of the chemical leaching issue from plastic…..what would you recommend to reduce the chance of explosion? Open more often to release pressure or fill the bottle less for expansion room?

  • Daniel Phillips says:

    Hi Mark, there’s the slightest sign of mould (small blue dots) before bottling. Is it worth the risk of continuing?
    Great recipe! Second batch this season.
    Cheers
    Dan

    • Mark Williams says:

      Sorry, only just picked up this comment. Yes, it can be rescued – filter as per instructions and bottle, and all should be fine.

  • Louise Sing says:

    Hi Mark, we’ve made this using flowering currant. When we burp the bottles it smells very strongly of farts – have you had this? It’s very fizzy, and tastes ok, but it’s not the flowery bouquet we hoped for, I wonder if we used too many flowers…?

    • Mark Williams says:

      Hmmm… burping the bottles can be a bit farty, but more of a CO2 rush than anything. Maybe too many flowers, or did they go mouldy before you strained them perhaps..? :/

  • Jackie Preston says:

    Hello Mark,
    I made the champagne 5 days ago and bottled it 3 days ago i forgot to burp them and when i did today most of the liquid came out. I opened them in the same large tub that I used initially. shall i leave it in the tub for a few more days then try bottling again, or sterilize the bottles and re fill?

    • Mark Williams says:

      Ah, yes, this happens. Burping, as you have discovered, has to be a quick release and even quicker screwing back on of the bottle lid. All you are doing is releasing potentially explosive pressure, not all of it. At least you captured the escapee! I’d just funnel it gently back into the bottle and continue the process, burping more carefully. Feels funny talking about “careful burping”!! 😉

  • Andrew R says:

    Would a demijohn with an airlock work instead of plastic bottles to save the burping process? Then transfer to glass bottles if not using plastic?

    • Mark Williams says:

      It would, but you would end up with wine, not fizz. At least some of the fermentation needs to occur in an airtight container to keep the fizz. Burping the bottles keeps pressure at safe levels, but an airlock would allow it to continuously escape.

  • Cat says:

    Hi Mark

    Do I need to wait for signs of fermentation before straining and bottling? I’m on day 3 since mixing all together and no signs of any activity yet.

    Thanks!

    • Mark Williams says:

      Not especially – 4 days is plenty at summer temperatures. Fermentation will kick off in the bottles.

  • Lynn Macdonald says:

    Do you know if you can freeze elderflowers and will they still make good champagne, Mark. It would be nice to have some for making it later in the year. Thanks

    • Mark Williams says:

      I’ve never tried freezing elderflowers. But they definitely dry well. Dry the umbels on newspaper so you catch all the pollen and wild yeasts etc too. I regularly use dried elderflowers for this recipe. Roughly 1 tablespoon of dried flowers = 1 fresh umbel.

  • Estelle Levin-Nally says:

    Hi! I have signs of pink mould on the top of some of my bottles. I washed and baked all of the bottles first before straining and bottling. Can I still demo it or do I need to reprocess or chuck?

    • Mark Williams says:

      Some coagulation of yeasts is normal, and this can look like mould. In plastic bottles this can be spurted out with a quick squeeze once carefully opened for serving. Or skimmed off perhaps. Its harmless, and doesn’t affect the flavour – just doesn’t look so nice. If it is actual mould, perhaps you steeped in the plant material for too long. May as well let it fizz up and have a taste – you never know…

  • Aleks says:

    Thanks again for the free sharing of these recipes and advice Mark.
    Just need to pick me up some more sugar this eve and get to it 🙂
    Shame I only just read your dry morning picking comments, a little late, but will try this batch and maybe collect some more before they pass by, on that advice, for comparison. The largely disused industrial estate behind me has so many elders.

  • Alice says:

    Great recipie. I found a similar recipie with 1lb Honey instead of 1.5lb sugar. the recipie warmed it would take longer to start fermenting but the final results were good.

  • ratt says:

    I’m in the same situation as Cat, today is the 3rd day and it all looks docile with no sign of fermentation. The kitchen is around 20-25 degrees centigrade on daytime temperature, with warm nights. My question to you, Mark, is: Have you yourself bottled up with regular success, when the brew hasn’t shown ‘working’ signs. And would you bottle tomorrow, the 4th day at the room temps I mention.

    • Mark Williams says:

      Fermentation happens mostly in the bottles. I’d bottle after 4 days. Some are livelier than others. I’ve got some mixed flower champagnes on the go just now which have taken the best part of two weeks to start building pressure in the bottle. Its not an exact science. I’m sure it will get there in the end though.
      Cheers
      Mark.

      • ratt says:

        It was done a few days ago Mark. And you nailed it, pressure was building in the bottles after only 2/3 hours. In fact I have released pressure twice now, and this morning the plastic bottles are very hard again. I thought this time to leave them be, would you recommend letting them go the course now?

        • Mark Williams says:

          Once they are fermenting that vigorously, I usually keep them in the fridge to slow fermentation and hold them at a nice (and safe) balance between sweetness, alcohol content and fizz.

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