Elderberry Liqueur

4.88 from 32 votes
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This recipe produces a warm, rich elderberry liqueur that will remind you of a tawny Port wine, only stronger — and better for you.

A jar with alcohol and elderberries for elderberry liqueur.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

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 wine grapes for this elderberry liqueur recipe.

Fresh elderberries are what you want for this recipe. Dried elderberries will work in a pinch, but it will take you a lot longer to make your liqueur, and they have a raisiny flavor I don’t love.

And with the fresh berries, remember to destem them all — no stems, as they are slightly toxic. OK, no stems is an overstatement, but only by a little. You want to remove as many as you can, but a couple teeny ones here and there won’t hurt.

(Looking for something with elderflowers instead? Here’s my recipe for elderflower liqueur.)

Over the years, 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.

It takes, well… a while to make your elderberry liqueur, at least a month in the jar. And since they are soaking in alcohol, you can leave them there for years. Seriously.

I imagine at some point you will get maximum extraction, however. So I reckon two to three months is enough.

It’s up to you whether to add sugar or honey to your liqueur. I do, but only a little. You add it into the jar with the berries, or after you strain them out. It will take a few days for the sugar to completely dissolve in the alcohol. Shake the jar every day until it does.

ripe elderberries on the bush
Photo by Hank Shaw

Elderberries are loaded with immune system boosters, and the extremely expensive elderberry tinctures you buy in the health food store, you know, the ones with the eye droppers, are really just this elderberry liqueur in a teeny bottle.

I say make your own, then, when you are feeling a bit under the weather — but not yet actually sick — treat yourself to a shot of homemade elderberry liqueur that you made, and that cost you just pennies. Am I right?

Looking for other things to make with elderberries? Try making elderberry ice cream, elderberry wine, or an old British sauce called pontack.

A jar with alcohol and elderberries for elderberry liqueur.
4.88 from 32 votes

Elderberry Liqueur

This method works with any berries. Blueberries or huckleberries are good alternatives, as are currants. 
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American, British
Servings: 25 small drinks
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


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


  • 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 a year.
  • The alcohol will extract flavor from the elderberries over time, so the longer you let it sit, the inkier it will get.
  • 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.
  • How much sugar or honey? At least 2 tablespoons, but to your taste. Shake to combine and put back in the cupboard. After a few days or weeks, the sugar will completely dissolve and the elderberry liqueur is ready to drink. It keeps forever.


Any sweetener you like will work here, but white sugar has the most neutral flavor. 


Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 114IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. I was so exceited to find wild elderberries, and watched them ripen with anticipation, but the deer needed them more than I

  2. I have been making Elderberry Liquor for a long time. I never knew they were good for you. What an excuse to give the wifey, I make it with whiskey Vodka Gin and sometimes Rum, As for whiskey I would only let it infuse for 4 months. I usually add 2 pieces of lemon rind and 1 piece of Orange rind. Never had it last more than a year and a half, I will try your recipe

  3. Do you do anything with the remaining berries after you’ve strained the liqueur? I’ve made sloe gin – after the sloe plums soak in the gin for a year, I strained them out and made jam out of the gin-soaked plums. Wondering if I can do that with the elderberries.

  4. I’ve never tried making anything with elderberries before, but i’d like to give this a try as there are lots in my garden. Do you add the sugar to the mixture before the 3 months are up, or do you wait until it’s ready? And, roughly how much sugar – you say it depends on taste, but is it usually tablespoons of sugar or lots more? If i decide on honey, what type is best? Akazien perhaps? And, how much? I do like sweet. ? Thanks.

    1. Kerrie: I add sugar at the end. Start with maybe 2 tablespoons per quart, but that’s just a rough guide.

  5. Hello! I’m delighted to find this recipe and your posts…wonder if you can help me ? I tried to make a tincture several years back where I placed whole washed elderberries and glass jars and covered with vodka. they they got away from me though and now I’m afraid to use it, as I understand that the seeds of the elderberries are poisonous. This variety of elderberries I have are not the clumping ones that seem to be larger berries. These jars of vodka with elderberries are at least 7 years old and are now a dark beautiful color. Is this safe to use? Or have toxins leached out from the seeds which are still in the elderberries?

    1. Meredyth: I’ve done this sort of tincture for decades with no ill effects. The toxins in the seeds are similar to those in apple seeds, and are very volatile. I suspect the alcohol denatures them.

      1. I suspect the natural yeast is what helps denature the toxins via fermentation. But perhaps the majority got washed off and possibly the number of extended years helped allow the remaining bits of yeast left on to finally catch up and multiply.

        That’s just a guess.

  6. Hi Hank,
    Last year, I tried your recipe with my left over dried elderberries/herbs after making elderberry syrup. I believe I added more unused dried elderberries to the mix. Came out delicious and dark. Any thoughts, suggestions?! Doing it again this year.
    Thank you!!

  7. Hi Hank! I’ve been a fan for quite some time. Question on this recipe — you say to use a Qt Mason jar; and pour the quart of vodka over the pint (2 cups) of berries. But you can’t get a full quart of vodka into a mason jar with 2 cups of berries? Perhaps I’m not understanding? Are we supposed to split it across two quart jars? or perhaps use a larger Mason jar? Just picked a bunch and wanted to do it correctly. Thank you.

    1. Mike: Naw, it’s not an exact deal. You’ll use less than a quart of vodka. If you definitely want a quart of finished product, then yes, split it among a couple jars.

    1. Anne: Nope. I can eat bowls of them. For a few people, they can cause an upset stomach. The fermenting process fixes all that.

  8. A nice simple recipe that I’ve tried and it works. A couple of hints…..
    Instead of shaking your container every day, just put it in the boot (truck to you) of your car and let it roll around for a few weeks. If you have several in there at the same time, tie a tea towel around each one to stop them clinking…. and do make sure they are well sealed.
    The second point is about sweeteners. I add a tiny amount at the start as it’s difficult to gauge how sweet fruit is from one year to the next. After a couple of months I have a cheeky taste test and add more sweetener to taste.
    As you said, these bottles will keep for years and do improve, so make enough to lose a couple of bottles in the back of the shed for a couple of years. You’ll be glad you did.