What could be more quintessentially English than elderflower?
Elderflower is the early summer flower of the English countryside. For three glorious weeks in June, English hedgerows are brightened by the flat white saucers of the flower heads of the elder tree. Close up the flower heads are fluffy and full of creamy coloured tiny flowers. And they smell divine. The heady fragrance of elderflower is summer nectar with a hint of spice.
Like hawthorn, the flowers of the elder herald the beginnings of warm lazy summer days. Well, we can but dream!
There are lots of culinary uses for elderflowers, as well as the elderberries that follow on afterwards. But elderflower cordial or tonic has to be the best and most versatile.
Perfect with gin, elderflower tonic adds an intriguing floral bitterness to the classic G&T. Paired with some of the more delicate floral gins it can be sublime.
I’ve rounded up eight of the best elderflower mixers and tonics out there for you to try. All can be found easily in the major supermarkets. So no hunting around for obscure tonics on the internet. Unless of course, you fancy it. Some use elderflower extract and some fresh elderflowers.
In no particular order ~
A long established company Fentimans ‘botanically brewed’ soft drinks and mixers are a long-standing favourite of mine. Their elderflower ‘botanical drink’ has a moderate amount of fizz and is full-bodied with plenty of elderflower. 9% elderflower extract in fact. It partners well with gin but is also a delicious cold summer drink in its own right when drunk from a highball filled with ice.
Posh it may be but I couldn’t discern much pear or elderflower. It is made with only 2% pear juice so presumably, the elderflower is even less. But it made for a pleasant mixer without any of the quinine bitterness found in tonic.
Bottle Green’s distinctive bottles are easily spotted on the supermarket shelves. Boasting ‘hand-picked elderflowers and sparkling Cotswold spring water’, sweet and mild this pressé is a classic elderflower mixer. A pressé, not a tonic so don’t expect as much fizz.
Fizziest of the lot with a lovely bitter orange flavour. Unfortunately, this does tend to eclipse the elderflower but it is a great tonic to pair with a wide range of gins to give depth and character.
Franklin & Sons Ltd. ~ Sicilian Lemonade & English Elderflower with crushed Juniper
A beautiful lemonade with hints of elderflower in a beautiful bottle. Perfect as a mixer for gin. Like Fentimans, it makes for a cooling long soft drink. Or perhaps try it with a jug of Pimms.
This is Waitrose’s own brand of mixer. Sweet with plenty of fizz to keep your taste buds tingling. Not as much elderflower as some of the others with a more delicate flavour. Possibly the least exciting of the lot.
If elderflower is the quintessential English flower then Fever-Trees’ is the quintessential elderflower tonic. With natural quinine, no artificial sweeteners, flavourings or preservatives FT has a fresh floral flavour that perfectly compliments gin.
‘Gently bubbling with real English elderflower’ Belvoir is a real treat. Like Bottle Green it is a pressé, not a tonic. Handmade on the farm with pressed lemon juice and spring water it conjures up the essence of the English countryside in early summer.
If any of these elderflower deliciousnesses have tickled your taste buds then please suggest your favourite serves.