From Holer to Hugo

photoWhen we stop in for a drink at a restaurant or mountain lodge in my valley, chances are that the most popular non-alcoholic drink offered to us is a “Holer”, or elderflower juice. It’s a staple home-made syrup that any of my friends make as soon as the elder flower blossoms are blooming, which is right about now. To this day, my mother, aunt, cousin, friends and friends of friends, spend a day or two this time of year, making elderflower syrup to drink throughout the year. I believe it is one of the most aromatic, delicate and almost perfect flavors in the world! Come and cook with us!

When you think elder flower plant – genus Sambucus Nigra – you have to distinguish between the flowers and the berries. The flowers of this plant are used to make an aromatic syrup or cordial (e.g., St.Germain), while the berries are used to make wines and marmalades. In my region, the most prominent use of the berries is to make a thick, black syrupy liquid that claims to have effect in treating the flu, alleviate allergies and overall boost respiratory health. We call it “ora sulza”, which means as much as “golden syrup”. It is relatively hard to come by and valued like a prized possession. You can make this syrup at home with store-bought dried elder berries, although I have not tried it myself, and rather rely on my Omi to provide me with some from her trusted sources at home.

As a side note, there is also an Italian liqueur called Sambuca. One would think that it is made from the elder berries, but, alas, this strong, syrupy and aromatic liqueur is actually made of star anise but, as the name suggests, must also contain some elderflowers. It is like the Greek Ouzo or French Pernot, and served as a digestive and, with the addition of water, as a long – cloudy – drink.

The hardest part of making elderflower syrup for most of my readers will be is to come by fresh elder flowers. Which is why I thought that I share with you what you can do once you get your hands on a bottle of it. The flower syrup is usually available in speciality stores or at any supermarket that carries international items. The most popular brand of it in the U.S. is D’Arbo. With bottle in hand, you can offer your kids a delicious elderflower syrup, but with the rest, kick off your summer with a refreshing glass of Hugo. It’s fast and easy and i know your friends will love it! Come and cook with us!

Elderflower Hugo (Alcoholic)


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