Elderberry Liqueur

A close up of a bottle of elderberry liqueur
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This recipe produces a warm, rich elderberry 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 wine grapes for this 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 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.

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 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 cost you pennies. Am I right?

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!