Elderberry Gin

A fresh batch of Elderberry Gin

Yes, I’m off again.  A hedge full of elderberries, busily being stripped by the birds, but this year I’m having my share too.  Elderberries, like Rowan, come with their own element of risk.  This time – cyanide poisoning.  Well, I like to live on the edge, but this time I’m taking some precautions.  The risk of alkaloid poisoning can be significantly reduced by ensuring that all berries are ‘de-stemmed’ by using the tines of a fork, only fully ripe berries are used, and that the fruit is cooked through before use. The cooking is the bit that makes the real difference – people make elderberry wine and jellies all the time without adverse affects, but the recipes that they follow will involve a degree of cooking.  Now I’m obviously not interested in cooking the fruit down to a pulp or steeping it in boiling water, so I took the option of microwaving the berried for a couple of minutes.  This leaves them more or less intact but gets the juice running and heats it through well, hopefully minimizing the affect of any rogue nasties. I should add that the body can handle small doses of plant cyanides with no ill effects, and many plants contain potential lethal alkaloids so you could consider this overkill (no pun intended…).  As long as you are wary of the parts of the plant where the poisons are contained (leaves, stems, seeds, bark), you should be OK.  Just remember that you’re only interested in the juice so make sure you strain the fruit off when the maceration is complete.


  • 500g ripe Elderberries
  • 100g Sugar
  • 70cl Gin, 43° ABV


  • Strip 500g of ripe elderberries from their stalks using a fork.  Pick over and remove all unripe fruit and remove as many stalks as possible
  • Place the berries in a microwavable bowl or jug and heat on full power for a couple of minutes, stirring occassionally.  The berries should have split, be losing juice and very hot, but not a pile of mush
  • In a sterilised Kilner Jar, add the berries and sugar
  • Pour over the gin.  Seal the jar and shake well
  • Over the next 2-3 days, shake periodically until the sugar has dissolved, then store the jar in a dark cupboard for 1 month only
  • Strain the mixture through a muslin and check the sweetness – add extra sugar if required. DISCARD THE BERRIES!
  • Store for another month or more before bottling & drinking


Again, another experiment.  The mixture is macerating with a default amount of sugar, which will need to be adjusted.  I’m only leaving the fruit in for a month – the heating process will speed up the juice extraction into the liquor, and I’d like to get rid of the seeds asap.


13 Comments Add yours

  1. green1001 says:

    hello- i really like this post- sounds awesome,although I am wondering whether you can make your own gin from scratch and then add the berries? i am currently writing an article for my web-site, shedreamsingreen.org on the UK’s native shrubs and trees that bear fruit and elder was one of them. Can I include this article if i need to and i will link back to your blog too? Oh and what are the chances of cyanide poisoning?!!Thanks, great blog.

  2. I suspect you could make your own gin – I’ve not looked into that but suspect it may be entertaining to brew your own hooch from scratch! The cyanide issue really isn’t a problem as long as you don’t use the unripe fruit. Any heating neutralises the potential threat, which is minimal at best. No probs with including this article – enjoy!

  3. julie cottam says:

    Just about to make elderberry gin ……but after reading some bad reviews with making people ill , or tasting horrid ……I was wondering how yours turned out .

    1. Hi Julie – Thanks for the comment, I’ve just moved this to the correct post and I see it’s added in my picture for yours 😦

      Like many fruits, if they’re not ripe, clean or prepared properly, it’s only going going to lead to problems with the quality of the end product. Elderberries are no different. The must be fully ripe, they need washing and they need to be removed from their stalks, which can be a real pain and I know some people just don’t have the patience (It’s really quite easy using a fork though). If you use unripe fruit or leave the stlaks on, you may well ruin the batch

      I’ve never had any problems with mine. My Dad used to make loads of elderberry port, and that was great too.

      Hope you give this a try!


  4. Jonners says:

    Just used this reccipe for Christmas. You say you want to take the seeds out asap, is a months the best time to do that then? Or could you take them out earlier. I’m quite nervous about this as I don’t want to poison everyone! Ha ha ha.

    Speak soon


    1. Hi Jonners,
      Yes, I got rid of the seeds after a month and survived to tell the tale

  5. susan Tod says:

    Elderberry Port is absolutely lush, me and my son made it and I always used to add it to the stock when making gravy it was fab.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hi James,

    I’m about to try this recipe – thanks for posting it – but I was wondering what is the best way to sterilise the jar? Is boiling water enough? Or did you use a proper steriliser? Would really appreciate any advice.


    1. Hi Steph – you’ve a number of options, some of which are more fiddly than others
      1. Rinse clean jars and ‘bake’ in a warm oven (about 140oC) for around 10 minutes
      2. ‘Boil’ jars in a large pan of boiling for about 10 minutes
      3. Rinse jars and Microwave for about 60 seconds
      4. Pass the jars through the dishwasher on a hot cycle & use as soon as the cycle has ended

      Personally I find that the dishwasher is most convenient for me. I’ve never tried the microwave method. Which ever method I use to sterilise jars & bottles, I always tend to boil lids etc in a pan of water

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