Whether or not it actually aids immunity, elderberry certainly boosts the color and flavor of drinks. Infusing a gin with this vivid violet berry is an easy way to give your cocktails more charisma.
WE'RE SEEING the telltale inky-violet hue in gummies, teas, tonics and all sorts of other products, many of them promising to confer wellness. The source of this tint du jour? Sambucas nigra, more commonly known as elderberry. And while studies regarding this berry’s vaunted immunity-boosting benefits remain inconclusive, its striking color and tart bite are enough to make it a bartender’s best friend.
At Bar Iris in San Francisco, elderberry brings a vivid twist to the Wildcard, a variation on the classic Americano cocktail of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda. The Wildcard starts with a base of elderberry-infused shochu (a Japanese clear spirit) and white rum. Bar manager Timofei Osipenko “coconut-washes” a homemade elderberry syrup, letting it macerate with melted coconut oil to “round out the corners and give it a little bit of weight.” Ramune (a Japanese soft drink) syrup, seltzer and Montenegro Select Aperitivo bring a balancing sweetness, a bit of fizz and a nice bitter edge.
Ektoras Binikos, co-owner and beverage director at Sugar Monk, in Manhattan, has long admired the highly pigmented paintings and prints of British artist and poet William Blake. For his William Blake cocktail, Mr. Binikos combines profoundly purple elderberry-infused gin with the aromatic aperitif Bonal Gentiane-Quina, Ardbeg Scotch and bay-leaf syrup. To achieve a luminous purple in his lemony, gin-based Southside cocktail, he uses a syrup of dried elderberries simmered with water and dark Demerara sugar. (He also steeps dried elderberries in hot water, an elixir he claims soothes his rheumatoid arthritis—while admitting this might just be a placebo effect.)