Liquor Cabinet

Issue No. 75 —

St. Germain

Spring is finally upon us. So lets kick it off with a bottle St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. If you go to the St. Germain website they’ll tell you the lovely story behind their artfully complex liqueur. It all begins at the foothills of the Alps, during but a few fleeting days of spring. Locals will handpick wild elderflower blossoms and bike sacks of these blossoms down the hillside to market.  These sacks will be the entirety of what will become St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Do I have your attention yet? Good, because aparently this stuff isn’t easy to make.

Distiller Robert Cooper takes on a complex process where speed is absolutely essential. These fragile blossoms quickly lose their flavor and fragrance once picked. Since a traditional maceration process yields little flavor and the customary option of pressing the flowers causes an unfortunate bitterness, an entirely new process was needed to properly extract the essence of these flowers while preserving their one of a kind flavor. Once this is complete the maceration is married with eau-de-vie or grape spirit. Finally, the spirit is blended with enough cane sugar to enhance the natural flavors of the blossoms. This is a process passed down through three generations of experience, dating back to 1884.

If your favorite liquor store carries it you’ve probably noticed this stunning, almost perfume-like bottle, on their shelves. Twist off that bottle’s cap and you’ll smell the wonderful aroma of lychee, peach, grapefruit zest; along with the floral notes from the elderflower. After you notice a strong presence of lychee, a sip test will reveal a balance of passionfriut, pear and the citrus of lemon and grapefruit… and of course elderflower. The palette entry is soft and the mouthfeel is full of honey. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur is clean, sweet, and refreshing.  Never cloying. It’s a well decorated liqueur, taking home double gold at the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The most exciting part about this liqueur is its mixability. You can combine it with champagne, white wine (Gewürtztraminer, my favorite white wine) or use it for a base in multiple cocktail recipes featuring gin, vodka, piscos, or just about anything really. My Cucumberous cocktail recipe combines St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur with fresh cucumber and lime juice, gin, rosemary simple syrup and orange bitters. It’s one of my most sought after cocktails. Get this, you can even freeze it and use it to layer a shot. The newbies in the cocktail world 9–10 will start out mixing cocktails with St. Germain. Is it the catchy packaging and story, or just the sweet lovable liqueur? Either way, It’s a very popular liqueur and a great addition to your home bar.  Your next purchase, I’m going to predict you go with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. No doubt the bottles of St Germain and Domaine de Canton will look great next to each other. If you are looking for a little more complexity in your liqueur my suggestion is you try Dimmi Liquore di Milano.

Here is my newest creation with St. Germain that I paired with a floral beer from Southampton.

Cuvée des Fleurs Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz Rye Whisky
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain
  • 1/2 oz of fresh lemon juice
  • Top with Southampton’s Cuvée des Fleurs (@ 2 oz).
  • Garnish with thyme and a lemon wheel

Shake rye, St. Germain, and the lemon juice with ice. Strain into an ice filled highball glass. Top the cocktail with Cuvée des Fleurs and stir to incorporate. Garnish with thyme and a lemon wheel.

12 Notes on St. Germain

  1. Nice post about St-Germain. It’s fantastic stuff. Regarding the next purchase, I would probably recommend Creme Yvette, another fantastic achievement also by Cooper Spirits. Don’t get me wrong, I picked up a bottle of Domaine de Canton the moment I saw it on the shelf, but now that I have it, here’s my assessment: It’s not “gingery” enough. I know, that sounds crazy, but hear me out. Say you want to really showcase that ginger flavor. You want to brighten up a cocktail with that characteristic burn–well, to get there you end up adding so much DdC that it over sweetens the drink. In other words, used in moderation, it doesn’t carry enough flavor, and by the time you add enough to really taste it, everything is out of balance, which might be fine if you are going for a sweet result. Ironically, fresh homemade ginger syrup packs a wallop, and even if you make ginger syrup at a rich 2:1 ratio, you don’t need to add near as much as you would Domaine de Canton to get the flavor. Consequently, I find myself reaching for ginger syrup far more often than the liqueur. I know, this is a St-Germain post, but it’s something to think about when you write about your next purchase.

    • Randy, I totally agree with you on Canton. People go nuts for St. Germain and Canton. You better have them on hand at your bar. People just starting out making cocktails reach for these products. I am glad it catches their interest. I too personally feel like you can make most of your own liqueurs or use syrups.

  2. I rather suspect that the legend of the army of Frenchmen on bicycles toting sacks of elderflowers is a load of crap designed to appeal to credulous Americans. But it sure is tasty liqueur, and a gorgeous bottle.

    For some reason I always want to combine St. Germain with Creme d’Yvette, but am afraid it’s going to taste like the kind of soap my grandmother puts in her guest bathroom. Thoughts?

  3. I really enjoy Domaine with absolut Brooklyn it brings out the ginger in both . It’s also very good in rye. I like products like this because I don’t have the time to make my own, plus I work at a liquor store which makes purchasing very easy. I haven’t tried st. Germain yet but I would like to it sounds interesting

  4. I was in California for business and had a fabulous Wine spritzer with St. Germain. I live in corn country and when I got home it took me 3 stores and “too“much money because the store I did find it at only keeps one at a time in stock but it’s worth it! Pinot, Slice, Soda Water, St. Germain, and Fresh Mint.
    Most refreshing satisfying cocktail ever!

  5. A close friend clued me in that I live around thousands of flowering elderberry bushes! I quickly went to work gathering up bunches of the flowers & bottling them in vodka. I processed as liqueuer after straining the alcohol. My results tasted like bitter tea, nothing like the wonderful St. Germaine. Ah, well… Will try again in the spring.

    • After the maceration it should be married with grape spirit and then blended with cane sugar then you will have your liquor if you read the article it says it in there hope this helps you

  6. “Once this is complete the maceration is married with eau-de-vie or grape spirit. ”

    does the drink have wine / grape extract in it?

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