Spring has most definitely sprung and what better way to celebrate than with some beautiful fresh cocktails, courtesy of St Germain, the French elderflower liqueur. I went along to the French Quarter Bar at the Voodoo Rooms, one of my favourite drinking places in Edinburgh, with my partners in crime, Derek and Isaac, aka The Social Bitches, and Derek’s cousin Benson, for a masterclass with St Germain’s brand ambassador, Rosie.
I’ve always toyed with the romantic idea of foraging my own elderflowers and making my own cordial. I even bought a book on the subject, ‘seaweed and eat it – a family foraging and cooking adventure‘ but I’m rather embarrassed to admit that to this day, it’s been more of a case of all mouth and no action. Quite frankly I’m of the school that thinks that life’s too short to make certain things like pastry and while I love elderflower cordial, there’s already some great brands out there. My favourite is Bottle Green who take all the hassle out of it. I’ll also confess that I’m worried that I might forage the wrong flower (as there is another hedgerow shrub that looks very similar) and end up poisoning someone.
Time is of the essence to coax out its essence
So back to St Germain. With an ABV of 20%, St-Germain is made with fresh elderflowers, hand-picked once a year in late spring. Every bottle of St-Germain contains up to 1,000 of the very best elderflower blossoms. Golden in colour, the natural colour of this elixir comes from the pollen, rather than artificial colouring being added. Its flavour is subtle and delicate and a wonderful addition to classic cocktails.
It really is a labour of love. Rosie recounted how on a recent field trip to France with 20 other bar tenders and brand ambassadors, they only gathered enough elderflowers to make about four bottles.
The name St Germain is inspired by St Germain Des Pres, an area of Paris influential in the Art Deco and Bello Epoque movements of France. The liqueur comes packaged in a beautiful, art deco shaped bottle that shouts ‘1920’s Paris.’ A bicycle is very much part of St-Germain’s branding and logo, depicting the flower gatherers who often use bicycles to bring back the picked blossoms back to the village.
A race against time
Creating St Germain is a race against time, as there are only a few fleeting weeks every summer (normally around May) when the blossoms’ flavour and aroma are at their peak. That’s why each bottle is individually numbered to reflect the year in which the flowers are picked.
Conceived by master distiller , Rob Cooper in 2002, it took five years to perfect, with it only launching officially in 2007. The brand was bought by Bacardi in 2013, which has allowed the brand to gain more prominence, with marketing spend put behind it.
St Germain – the salt and pepper of a bartenders’ tool box
Described as the ‘salt and pepper’ of the bartenders’ tool box, St Germain is a great addition to any cocktail. Rosie had designed the masterclass around cocktails that can be simply made at home, with no specialist equipment required.
And if you don’t have a cocktail shaker, Rosie told us to improvise. You can use anything from your protein shaker to an empty jam jar. However, it is worth investing in some ice from the supermarket, unless you have the room in your freezer to make your own. Rather than diluting your drink, more ice is actually better.
The recipe is a closely guarded secret
St Germain is made charmingly slow, using age-old French techniques, starting with maceration, whereby the flowers are infused with warm water, allowing the aroma and flavour of the elderflowers to evolve. The infusion is then decanted and filtered to remove the flowers and stems. The final elderflower infusion is then blended with eau-de-vie de vin, water, sugar and neutral grain spirit to create St Germain.
Rosie showed us how to make three simple cocktails based on the classics.
We started with the brand’s signature cocktail, a St Germain Spritz, which combines St Germain, sparkling wine, and sparkling over ice in a Collins glass, stirred gently, and garnished with a lemon twist.
Next up was a Bombay Sapphire Collins, which combines 50ml Bombay Sapphire, 12.5ml St Germain, 20 ml lemon juice, which is shaken with ice and then poured into a tall Collins glass, with a splash of soda to lengthen.
Next up was the St Germain Martini, which combined 50ml Martini Vermouth, with 50ml Grey Goose Vodka, 10ml St Germain, which are mixed together in a mixing glass over ice and then strained into a Martini glass. We tried it with two different garnishes; the first one was two olives, which we deemed are favourite, providing a lovely umami taste with the saltiness and the sweet and the other with a twist of lemon.
The final cocktail, and our favourite was a St Germain Daiquiri. 50ml of Bacardi White Rum, 25ml lemon juice, 10ml gomme (sugar syrup) and 12.5ml St Germain are combined in a cocktail shaker with ice, shaken until cold and then strained into a coupette glass.
Look out for St Germain at Cocktails in the City in May. And if you’re interested in a St Germain masterclass or any of the other cocktail masterclasses, contact Rosie at the Voodoo Rooms.
St Germain – https://www.stgermain.fr/