When I was growing up, my Grandfather always had a couple of vintages of his homemade Elderberry Wine aging in oak barrels in the cellar. My father would tell stories of he and his buddies laying on their backs, opening the spigots for each other, and hoping “Pa” didn’t come home too soon. The idea of carrying on the tradition of Elderberry Wine led me to what I believe to be the obvious conclusion of a spirit buff, distill it into brandy.
Although Grandpa’s berries were wild-harvested, we acquired ours from our friendly neighbor’s winery only four miles from our shop. The Shade Winery shrubbery, we like to say with our favorite Python accent. Drive past all the Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Vidal vines, and there it is, in all its glory on the hill overlooking the pond.
Grandpa’s wine was strong and sweet. For distillation strong is good, but we choose to ferment to dryness, using all the sugar for alcohol production. This wine is pulled off our still between 80% and 85% alcohol. Low enough to bring through the floral fruit character of the summer drupes along with the spicy, peppery tartness one would expect of Elderberries. The spirit is aged with charred and toasted oak for three months to lend a mellow smoothness and a hint of color before it is then bottled at 80 proof.
Great straight, over ice, or mixed in our favorite cocktail, an Elderberry Sour! Like a whisky sour, only better, this is a great summer mixer on the porch with your best friends.