All photos and recipes by Amanda Schuster
Ah, the season's blooms! With their bright colors, delicate petals and sweet fragrances, you just want to drink them in, don’t you? Well, you don’t have to only do it with your eyes anymore - you can make flowers into your own delectable liqueurs and syrups as well!
Though it's probably not a great idea to eat most flowers, there are several that are safe for consumption. These include violets, orchids, lavender, rose, rosella, hibiscus, chamomile, calendula, jasmine, carnation, pansy, geranium, honeysuckle, lilac, marigold, orange blossom and dandelions. Not only do they make delicious drinks, but they smell amazing in your kitchen as you prepare them.
These dainty syrups and liqueurs are actually quite the workhorses, and not only enhance fancy cocktails, but are delicious simply added to seltzer, iced tea or lemonade for a refreshing treat. They’re excellent baking ingredients (lavender-scented brownies - believe it) and delicious even drizzled on ice cream. Add one to hot water with lemon for a soothing toddy.
If fresh flowers are not available, there are several options for using dried flowers. A specialty grocer or tea shop will likely stock whole dried flowers specifically for steeping, either packaged loose or in tea bags. A few examples are hibiscus, rose hips, chamomile and jasmine. Dried cooking lavender, which has more supple blossoms, is also fairly easy to come by at farmer’s markets or tea shops.
As a variation, you can combine flowers in different measurements. You can also add other whole aromatics when making the syrups, such as citrus peels, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves or anise seed. Certain flowers work best with specific flavors. The hibiscus matches warm spices like ginger and clove. Chamomile and rose with citrus. Lavender with mint or lemon. Mix and match to find your favorite combination!
If you are using fresh flowers, be sure that they’re thoroughly washed and never came in contact with pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals. Those from your own garden if you have one would be ideal, or from a specialty food store that carries edible flowers. In some cases, you will need a couple of days to a week before you have a finished product, so time accordingly.
What follows are ways to make syrups and liqueurs from both fresh and dried flowers, as well as the lemon syrup needed to flavor them. I’ve also included some cocktail recipes in which to use them. Cheers!
Dried Flower Syrup
3 T dried tea flowers or lavender 1 cup water 1 ¼ cups sugar
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium flame until it begins to bubble. Simmer on low heat until sugar dissolves and liquid takes on a syrupy form, lightly coating the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through fine mesh sieve into airtight container. This can be used as soon as it cools and will store in a refrigerator up to a week.
Lemon Simple Syrup
2 strips lemon peel 1 cup water 1 ¼ cups sugar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat till it starts to bubble. Simmer on low until sugar dissolves and lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Can be stored in airtight container for up to a week.
Dried Flower Liqueur
6 T dried tea flowers or lavender 1 750 ml bottle of 80 proof unflavored vodka ¾ - 1 cups lemon simple syrup (depending on desired sweetness)
Combine the flowers and vodka in an airtight container (a liter jar works best) and let steep for at least 24 hours. Leave it out on a counter away from direct sunlight and give it a shake now and then to agitate. Strain through a colander lined with layers of cheesecloth into a bowl. Lift out cloth with the flowers, form a sack and squeeze out excess liquid through the colander. Add syrup and whisk to combine. Funnel into a resealable bottle. This will keep for several months to a year. Store as you would other spirits, in a cool, dry, place (but not the fridge or freezer).
Fresh Flower Syrup
2 cups of fresh flower petals (best to use only one kind here) water1 ½ cups sugar juice of one lemon
Place the flowers in a large, heat proof glass bowl. Boil 3 cups of water and pour over the flowers. Make sure they’re all submerged. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out for at least 24 hours. Strain into bowl through colander lined with layers of cheesecloth. Pick up cloth with the flowers, make a sack and squeeze out excess liquid into the bowl. Place flower water, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and develops a syrupy consistency, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool. Use immediately or store in airtight container for up to a week. Yields a little more than 2 cups.
Fresh Flower Liqueur
3 cups fresh flower petals 1 750 ml bottle of 80 proof unflavored vodka lemon simple syrup
Place petals and the vodka in an airtight container (a large jar with a tight-fitting lid works best). Store at room temperature away from direct sunlight for a week. Give it a good shake as you walk past it a couple of times a day to agitate. Strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth into a bowl. Lift out the cheesecloth, forming a sack with the flowers and squeeze excess liquid into the bowl. Add the syrup and whisk to combine. Funnel into a sealable glass bottle. Store as you would other spirits, in a cool, dry place (but not in the refrigerator or freezer). This will keep for several months up to a year.
Adapted from a cocktail by Abigail Giullo of Sobou in New Orleans. The aged tequila adds a warm depth. Abby uses lavender syrup, but another flowery syrup will also work beautifully.
Shake all ingredients well with ice to combine. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel if desired.
An adaptation of the Lady Grey cocktail, which is made with Earl Grey tea syrup. (Either way, the cocktail is named for ill-fated Medieval era British Queen, Lady Jane Grey, one of my personal favorite historical figures.) This cocktail uses chamomile liqueur from dried flowers instead of the tea. You can also use another flower liqueur in its place.
1 ½ oz dry gin (we suggest Sipsmith London Dry Gin) 1 ½ oz chamomile liqueur (or other flower liqueur) ½ oz lemon juice 2 - 3 dashes orange bitters egg white lemon zest for garnish (optional)
Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice to combine and make frothy. Strain into a chilled lowball, coupe or cocktail glass. Zest a little lemon over the top if desired.
Éclat du Matin
The name means “Morning Radiance” in French. Making the syrup took some effort, so this is a simple reward. Makes a fantastic brunch cocktail or aperitif.
½ to ¾ oz fresh or dried flower syrup (fresh orchid syrup was used in the “test kitchen”) sparkling wine 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Place syrup and bitters in a flute or coupe glass. Top with sparkling wine.