Andy Hamiton’s delicious alcoholic elderflower champagne

The fizz that characterises elderflower champagne is a result of bottling before the fermentation process has finished, normally this process is started by capturing wild yeast. This can cause problems: namely, lack of alcohol, exploding bottles and disappointing results.

(for more hedgerow drinks don’t forget to help fund my 3rd book – Wild Booze and Hedgerow Cocktails)

elder champagne with elderflowers By using a bit of fermenting know-how you can make a sparking elderflower “champagne” every year that may rival any real champagne (though I am biased since it’s my own recipe).

The first problem to look at is using wild yeast. Some areas can be wild yeast deserts meaning your champagne will never ferment. If you do manage to capture a wild yeast you never know which yeast will get to work on your drinks. Each yeast works differently so you can be in for a lottery of flavours and alcohol strengths. The only way around that is to add your own yeast and champagne yeast is the best option; this has the added bonus of making your elderflower champagne alcoholic.

Elderflower champagne in a glass

Elderflower champagne in a glass courtesy of Roy Hunt

My recipe doesn’t resemble a normal elderflower champagne recipe and it is essentially a recipe for elderflower wine which is then re-fermented. This means more reliable results and if you change your mind halfway through at least you are left with some great white wine.

There was a pleasant country belief that if the flowers were put into ale, and a man and woman drank it together, they would be married within a year. – Lesley Gordon, 1985

ALCOHOLIC ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE Grated rind of one lemon 1 litre/2 pints of elderflowers 3.5 litres/8 pints of boiling water 1.3kg/3 lbs sugar Juice of one lemon Champagne yeast, 1 tsp yeast nutrient.

Put flowers into fermentation bin and mix with lemon rind, lemon juice and sugar. Pour over boiling water and allow very gently stir until fully dissolved. Allow the water to cool to around 18°c – 20°c,  then filter through a muslin cloth and add the yeast and 1 tsp yeast nutrient. Leave in a place with a steady temperature of around 20°c for a 10-14 days or until the majority of fermentation has ceased.

When you are sure all the bubbling has ceased, strain in demijohn and allow to ferment fully. About three months should do the job, keep checking with a hydrometer. When you get consistent readings over 3-4 days your wine will have fully fermented.

Bring 200ml of water to the boil and add 70g of sugar. Allow to cool then strain the wine into a another demijohn leaving the sediment. Add the 200ml of sugar solution and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.

Siphon into champagne bottles seal with champagne corks and secure them in place with metal cages. The wine should be kept at room temp for the first 10 days. After this time it is moved to a cooler place, such as a cellar. They should initially be stored horizontally and over the next three months they should be gradually moved upside down. This can be done by placing the neck into sand. Chill for 24 hours before serving and do not disturb the bottle before opening.

Any problems making alcoholic elderflower champagne?

It’s funny how so many people have the same problems when making elderflower champagne. I’ve noted most of them and hopefully, you’ll find help on my article Elderflower champagne problems from mould, no fizz to exploding bottles.

Andy Hamilton

Brewer, forager, broadcaster, spaceman occasional liar

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28 Responses

  1. Vanessa Sherwood says:

    How much yeast do you put in?


    • Andy Hamilton says:

      You can buy single packets use one of those and follow the instructions on the pack. Although, the first thing yeast does is multiply so really how much yeast doesn’t matter a huge ammount, good to make a yeast starter though. If you get my book, Booze for free you can find a lot more information in there I wrote it with the novice in mind!

  2. Drew says:

    Hello, Andy. Very excited to attempt this recipe this evening – I’ve had it bookmarked for ages! Question about this step:

    “When you are sure all the bubbling has ceased, stir the wine and allow to settle for 3 days Strain in demijohn and allow to ferment fully.”

    Is there a final gravity we should be shooting for (or another clear indicator)? I’m a bit new at brewing, but I’d like to make sure I know when the mixture has completely fermented.

    Many thanks!

    • Ideally, the S.G. Needs to get to 1000 for wine, with Champagne you could bottle just before that stage and then not worry about adding the extra sugar. What you are hoping for is a still or refermenting wine. I would say though, that this is rather difficult wine to perfect for the beginer and would strongly advise starting with something like the blackberry for a first wine as its difficult to get that one wrong. Get this wrong and you could have glass flying all over the place!

  3. Mike Banks says:

    Having read this post and been given the book for Fathers day last weekend I have noticed a couple of differnces like when to add the fruit etc. Which am I best to follow, also in the book it says ‘boil up half the water’ it then goes on to add the other ingredients but I cannot see anywhere to add the other half of the water either hot or cold? At what stage should I add the rest of the water?

  4. Elan says:

    Is it normal at the first stage for the liquid to be a dark brown colour? I started mine this morning I had a feeling that the lack of acid may affect the colour. Will it brighten up after being strained and having the lemon juice added. Please help otherwise ill start again 🙁

  5. Patrick Nagle says:

    I’ve just put mine into the demi-john and fixed the bubbler, but I am not seeing any bubbles? I noticed that before I put it into the demi-john the fizz that was once there (in the bucket I used to do the first fermentation in) was gone. I waited exactly one week and followed the recipe very closely. Any ideas?

  6. Ian says:

    Hi Andy,

    First try at elderflower fizz. The recipe used was 20 litres of water (12 hot) 11 lemons juice and zest, 3.5 kilos of sugar, carrier bag of elderflowers. everything mixed in fermenting vessel. After four days no sign of any activity – water may have been hot enough to kill wild yeast. Therefore added a sachet of Lalvin Champagne yeast. now (twelve hours later all sorts of stuff floating on top! Is this ruined? I do not have demi johns although I have bought a Hydrometer on a friends advice. What to do next?

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Stuff floating? Well, this could be bits of detitrus from the elderflower. Suggest having a taste by dipping in a steralized cup. It is fermenting at least?

  7. Ian says:

    Almost forgot, also four table spoons of white wine vinegar

  8. Emily says:

    Is is essential to use demi johns to allow the wine to ferment fully or can I leave it in the fermentation bucket for 3 months instead? I have made 15 ltrs so would rather keep it in the bucket if possible…

  9. Jamie says:

    Hi Andy,

    Currently working on my 2nd batch at elderflower champagne, this time using a pink variety of elderflower.

    I fermented for a week in the bucket and transferred nearly a week ago to demijohn. I’m going to leave it in the bubbling away in the DJ until the brew has pretty much cleared and then transfer to another DJ to clear out the sediment. It’s taken best part of three to four weeks for my previous batch to clear in the bottle but I want to leave it in the DJ as I found the sediment that collected in the bottles spoiled the taste of the champers when drunk.

    If my current batch sits too long, can it be hard to get the wine to start re-fermenting? I want it to be as clear as possible before I add the sugar solution and bottle.


    • Andy Hamilton says:

      If you are worried you could let it clear for a bit then rack it again, this will help it clear some more. I’ve racked 4 times before bottling on occasion. But as far as re-fermenting is concerned once the yeast has used up all the sugar it lays dormant, so when you add more it should re-ferment no trouble.

  10. Mark says:

    Andy I’m confused I followed the recipe in the Guardian- about 2 weeks in the bucket, siphoned into dimi-john. Kind of forgot about the hydrometer and two weeks into demi-john it is now reading .990 or there abouts. This new tweaked recipe sayd 3 months in demi-john but guardian article said after 2 weeks check with hydrometer? The liquid is yellow cloudy,smells alcoholic and elderflower is coming through, but it tastes a little bitter and tasteless. Should I add sugar and bottle or what do you suggest or is it in trouble? cheers

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      I’d go by the hydrometer rather than the time, it more accurate. Perhaps add some sugar syrup upon serving and see what that tastes like.

  11. Ed says:

    Hi Andy,
    I made this recipe last year. The champagne looked amazing but it was incredibly sweet. Your recipe uses approximately twice as much sugar as others. Do you have any suggestions about this? Thanks.

    • Hello Ed, thanks your comment… I wonder what yeast you were using and if you took a hydrometer reading before bottling what it had gone down to? Did you also keep the fermentation temperature at a constant?

      • Ed says:

        Hi Andy, thanks for the reply. I used a sachet of young’s champagne yeast. I left it to fully ferment down to 1010 and it was kept at a constant temperature. I scaled your recipe up to make 20 litres, meaning that 7.4kg of sugar was added.

  12. Dawn says:

    Hello Andy
    I’ve made my first Elderflower Champagne this year which is bubbling away gently in 4 x litre bottles I’ve left the caps loose to prevent gas build up. There is sediment at the bottom of the bottles and a white film trapping the CO2 in largish bubbles at the top of the liquid (which I presume is also yeast). How do I get rid of that white film, or even the sediment at the bottom of the bottle for serving (or do I)?

  13. Lara Wood says:

    We make Elderflower Cordial every year in large quantities to sell from my preserve shop at home. The recipe we use has always worked but this year the cordial seems to have turned to champagne. It is fizzy when the bottle is opened and smells slightly alcoholic. We added citric acid during making and crushed campden tablets once the cordial was strained. How can we tell/test to find out how alcoholic the cordial now is?

  1. June 29, 2013

    […] Video clips ← Beer review of Williams Bros. ‘Caesar Augustus’ Lager/IPA Hybrid 4.1% Andy Hamiton’s delicious alcoholic elderflower champagne → […]

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    […] I get nasty emails from French lawyers (Like I did off the Champagne lawyers for elderflower champagne),  the only way you can actually make Chateauneuf du pape is to grow grapes in the Chateauneuf du […]

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