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Elderberry Liqueur

elderberry liqueur

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This recipe produces a warm, rich liqueur that will remind you of a tawny Port wine. Elderberries are in many ways little grapes, with a similar aroma, bloom on the skin and color; they even have little seeds inside. So I treated them like winegrapes for this recipe.

You need fresh elderberries for this, although I am sure you could use dried ones somehow. Maybe simmer them in water to reconstitute? And with the fresh berries, remember to destem them all — NO stems, as they are slightly toxic.

I’ve tested two recipes for elderberry liqueur: One where you buzz the berries in a blender, another using whole berries. I vastly prefer the method using whole, fresh berries, so here it is:

Elderberry Liqueur

Makes about 1 quart.

Prep Time: 30 days

  • 1 pint fresh elderberries
  • 1 quart vodka
  • 3 one-inch pieces of lemon rind, white pith removed
  • Sugar

  1. Put elderberries into a quart Mason jar and pour over the vodka. Add the lemon rind (make sure the rind has no white pith, as it is bitter.) Seal and put in a dark cupboard for at least a month, or up to 6 months.
  2. The alcohol will extract flavor from the elderberries over time, so the longer you let it sit, the inkier it will get.
  3. When it is the color you want — anything from a Pinot Noir color to downright black — pour the vodka through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into another jar and add sugar.
  4. How much sugar? At least 1/4 cup, but to your taste; I go with 1/3 cup. Shake to combine and put back in the cupboard.
  5. After a few days or weeks, the sugar will completely dissolve and the elderberry liqueur is ready to drink. It keeps forever.

More Recipes for Sweets and Syrups

89 responses to “Elderberry Liqueur”

  1. simon

    Hi Hank, we’re on our third year of making Damson Gin and Damson Vodka, having picked 24lbs of damsons and frozen them to use all year.Blackberry vodka last year too and this summer in the UK has given us a huge Elderberry harvest so off to buy many litres of vodka and gin to repeat the recipie with the Elderberries. Should be ready for Christmas. Damson and Plum harvesting soon and Blackberries ripening too. And after you finish with the Blackberries in Vodka use them to make alcoholic Blackberry crumble….

  2. Pamela Kupiec

    What happens if I put the sugar in, in the begining?

  3. Bill of Montana

    Well the sugar did it. Before the sugar was added the elderberry flavor was overpowered by the vodka. The sugar lessened the vodka and the berry flavor came on strong. All in all a very nice sipping drink. I’ve 750ml bottled and decorated that will now sit and to be enjoyed during the holidays.


  4. Michael

    I’m with Pamela on this one. I actually just did this yesterday, only difference is, I added honey instead of sugar. Mixed it all in and am currently bouncing around waiting for at least a month before seeing the end result. If I don’t get a response I will try to remember to post my outcome with using honey instead and putting it in at the beginning.

  5. angela

    I couldn’t remember the recipe or the measures so I put equal parts elderberry to vodka almost but only have screw top wine bottles to put it in will this be okay or could I seal it in a huge plastic container until it is ready to add the sugar?

  6. angela

    Not sure how I will get all the elderberries in the wine bottles the opening of the bottle is rather small still have it sitting in the plastic jug with cling film over it can’t think that can be good but nothing else available for it

  7. Bambi Rieker

    I forgot to add lemon zest to the jars. I also sealed them in a boiling bath. Is this OK? Or should I start over? Can I still use the same berries and vodka?

  8. neil

    Hi all.
    Can you use brandy instead of vodka?

    Cheers Neil.

  9. Neil

    Do I need to microwave the berries or boil them as I’ve been told they can be poisonous if raw.
    New to all of this so might be asking loads of questions.


  10. Neil


    In goes the brandy….. let you know hat it’s like in a month or so.


  11. grahame

    Hi Hank. In Norfolk(England) I have heard this drink made from brandy and elderberries called Elderette. Wondered if any one else has heard it called this? Grahame

  12. Emma Carlisle

    Just emptied my chest freezer and found a bag of elderberries that I had stupidly forgotten to use! Would these still work?!

  13. Danielle schuh

    Has anyone ever used dry elderberries to make this? If so how much do I use?

  14. Michelle

    When is the best time to add sugar to the alderberry liquor, before or after it has sat or does it matter?

  15. sis gillispie

    I just put the sugar in the elderberry vodka mix after letting it set for 6 weeks, the sugar will not dissolve, it sets on the bottom, what can I do?

  16. Elderberry: The Definitive Guide

    […] has a good recipe for elderberry […]

  17. Jake

    Hello, we have numerous beautiful elderberry shrubs on our property. So we thought we would harvest them. We used a steamer (Mei’lusa) probably butchered the spelling. Anyhow I have at least 5 gallons of very dark elderberry juice. I’d love to try making wine, jelly, brandy, liqueur, and even thought of making soap. So here’s the problem: I am looking for ideas and better yet RECIPES! I would appreciate any ideas or recipes. Thanks!

  18. Tina

    We forgot about some of the elderberries steeping and they were in the cupboard under the stairs for 2 years before straining and adding sugar.
    The liqueur was so dark and made the most delicious elderberry royales on Christmas day. Last year we did the same with Damsons!

  19. Marie

    I forgot to strain my vodka for a year and now it tastes pretty bad. Not sweet or berry like at all. It tastes like earth. Is there anything I can do to rectify this? I can’t remember if I added the sugar. Sounds like I didn’t, right?

  20. Maria

    Oh, man! The elderberry-bushes are blooming, and I’m most excited about trying this recipe!Thanks to everyone for all the interesting questions, as the answers may have saved me some time and trouble.

  21. Rina

    I love the blackberry vodka and this year I am trying the elderberries as well so thank you for the idea ( I’m thinking of making two bottles of elderberry wine as well ). Anyway I do not know has anyone tried this or not but I use the blackberry vodka like two fingers at the bottom of the glass and than add about two to three fingers of Red Bull. It is so good, I saw this being done when I visited Kosovo, I do wonder how will the elderberry vodka taste with Red Bull as well. Well thanks for the great idea sadly until now I used the bloom only to make juice never really used the berries.

  22. Melissa

    I have spotted a number of elderflower bushes, and now the berries are forming. (I’m in Massachusetts, USA.) What color should the berries be before I pick them? I’ve read that they will be blue or purple, but there’s a good bit of difference between those. Should I just try eating one to see if it’s sweet? Will it be like a ripe blueberry? Thanks.

  23. Veronica Lawler

    I made a cherry vodka the way I was taught in Romania (only they used a homemade plum brandy (Romanian moonshine). I put cherries in a large jar, added sugar closed tightly and left to ferment. Then pour in vodka and age.

  24. Lisa Lanning

    What do you think about using one of the flavored vodkas? Like a whipped cream vodka or even a strawberry vodka?

  25. Suzanna

    I made 14 8oz jars of elderberry jelly from 3 pounds of fresh berries I went out & got another pound of them to prepare some liquor can’t wait till its ready the jelly turned out fantastic

  26. Janis Mc

    Thanks for the great tips. Spent hours yesterday trying to get every little stem off of a couple lbs of elderberries. If there are a few 1/8 in stems will that be a problem?

  27. Janis Mc

    Thanks. I’m really glad to hear that. Lol

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