St-Germain is a French liqueur with a sweet, floral flavor that is made from elderflowers. It has become popular in recent years as a cocktail ingredient and is used by bartenders around the world to add nuanced flavors to mixed drinks. In this article, we’ll explore what exactly St-Germain liquor is, where it comes from, how it’s made, and the many ways it can be used creatively in cocktails.
What is St-Germain Liquor?
St-Germain is an artisanal French liqueur that gets its distinctive taste from the hand-picked elderflower blossoms that are used to make it. It was created in 2007 by Robert Cooper, a former winemaker who wanted to find an alternative to the lower-quality elderflower liqueurs on the market. He partnered with a local elderflower grower and set up a small distillery in the French Alps to produce his special elderflower liqueur.
Unlike other elderflower liqueurs which often have a heavy, cloying taste, St-Germain is made from freshly-harvested elderflowers that are macerated to extract their delicate flavor and scent. The result is a liqueur with lovely floral and citrus notes and subtle sweetness. Bottled at 20% ABV, St-Germain has a lower alcohol content than many other liqueurs, allowing its bright, fragrant flavors to shine through.
Where Does St-Germain Come From?
As mentioned, St-Germain hails from France and is produced in the small village of Saint-Germain-les-Arpajon, located in the French Alps. The pristine mountain setting and mineral-rich spring water used in the liqueur contribute to its purity of flavor.
The key ingredient in St-Germain is elderflower blossoms. These white, frothy flowers bloom on elderberry shrubs for just a few short weeks each spring. Local farmers carefully hand-pick the delicate blossoms at their peak ripeness and deliver them fresh to the St-Germain distillery. The short elderflower harvest season means production of the liqueur is limited each year.
How is St-Germain Made?
St-Germain is made through a simple but meticulous process of macerating hand-picked elderflowers in a neutral spirit along with some fresh lemon zest and sugar. Here are the basic steps:
- Fresh elderflower blossoms are harvested by hand in the French Alps during their brief yearly blooming period.
- The elderflowers are immediately macerated in a base of grape spirit along with citrus peels, cane sugar, and mountain spring water.
- The mixture infuses for an extended time, allowing the elderflowers’ aromas and flavors to be fully extracted.
- After maceration, the elderflower-infused spirit is filtered and diluted to bottling strength with more spring water.
- The finishing liqueur has subtle sweetness and lovely floral and citrus notes from the elderflowers.
Unlike mass-produced liqueurs, no extracts, syrups, or artificial flavors are used. St-Germain owes its one-of-a-kind taste solely to fresh elderflowers, simple ingredients, and an artisanal production method.
So what does St-Germain taste like exactly? Here are some of the signature flavor notes you can expect:
- Appearance: Clear, slightly viscous liquid ranging from pale to rich yellow
- Aroma: Fragrant, floral, reminiscent of ripe honey and muscat grapes
- Flavor: Bright, refreshing citrus up front, followed by honeyed floral notes and subtle sweetness
- Mouthfeel: Smooth, lightly syrupy
- Finish: Sweetness fades quickly leaving clean floral aftertaste
The complexity of St-Germain comes from the elderflowers – while not overpowering, their presence is unmistakable. The citrus and honey notes complement the flowers. It has just enough sweetness to satisfy a craving without being cloying. Elegant and approachable at once.
How to Drink St-Germain
There are many creative ways bartenders and mixologists use St-Germain in cocktails. Here are some of the most popular applications:
On the Rocks
The simplest way to enjoy St-Germain is poured over ice in a rocks or old-fashioned glass. The liqueur’s aromatics open up beautifully when chilled and diluted slightly. Garnish with a lemon twist.
For a refreshing summer drink, combine 2 oz St-Germain with 4 oz dry sparkling wine like brut Champagne or Prosecco in a wine glass filled with ice. Top with 2 oz club soda and stir gently. Garnish with fresh berries.
St-Germain’s floral profile works well in many classic cocktails. Replace simple syrup with 1/2 to 1 oz St-Germain in cocktails like daiquiris, margaritas, mojitos, and negronis.
Add 1/2 oz St-Germain to a flute and top with dry Champagne or sparkling wine for an elegant before-dinner drink.
To make this gin-based cocktail, shake 1 oz gin, 1/2 oz St-Germain, and 1/2 oz lemon juice with ice. Strain into a flute and top with 3 oz brut Champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
5 Popular St-Germain Cocktail Recipes
Looking to experiment with St-Germain at home? Try one of these delicious cocktail recipes:
|Lemon juice||3/4 oz|
|Club soda||Top off|
Add gin, St-Germain, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice cubes. Top with club soda and stir gently. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
|Club soda||1 oz|
Fill a wine glass with ice. Add Prosecco and St-Germain. Top with club soda and stir gently. Slap 2-3 mint leaves to release aroma and add to drink. Garnish with a lime wedge.
|Lemon juice||1⁄2 oz|
|Club soda||Top off|
Dry shake gin, St-Germain, lemon juice, and egg vigorously for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again for 10-15 seconds. Double strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon twist.
|Club soda||1 oz|
Fill a wine glass with ice. Add Prosecco and St-Germain. Top with club soda and stir gently. Express oils from lemon twist over drink and use as garnish.
St-Germain Elderflower Martini
|Dry vermouth||1⁄2 oz|
Add gin, St-Germain, and vermouth to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir for 20-30 seconds until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Express oils from lemon twist over drink and use as garnish.
Where to Buy St-Germain
Wondering where you can get your hands on a bottle of St-Germain? Here are some places to look:
- Liquor stores – Check the liqueur section of your local liquor store
- Specialty wine and spirits shops – Many carry hard-to-find liqueurs
- Online liquor retailers – Large sites like ReserveBar, Drizly, and Caskers stock St-Germain
- Amazon – Search for St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- Bar supply stores – Cater to professional bartenders but often open to public
St-Germain retails for around $30-40 for a 750mL bottle. It’s imported to the US by Domaine St-Germain so hasn’t achieved as wide distribution as bigger brands, but any decent liquor store is likely to carry it.
Cocktail Recipes Using St-Germain
Below are several more delicious cocktail recipes featuring St-Germain to inspire your home mixology experiments:
Elderflower Grapefruit Cup
Muddle 5 mint leaves and 2 lime wedges in a shaker. Add 11⁄2 oz tequila, 1⁄2 oz St-Germain, and 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice. Shake with ice and double strain into a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice. Top with soda water and garnish with a grapefruit slice.
Combine 2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, 3⁄4 oz St-Germain, 3⁄4 oz lemon juice, and 4 oz ginger ale in an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with apple and cucumber slices.
Shake 11⁄2 oz gin, 1⁄2 oz St-Germain, and 1⁄2 oz lemon juice with ice. Strain into a flute and top with chilled sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Muddle 5 sage leaves in a shaker. Add 2 oz reposado tequila, 3⁄4 oz St-Germain, and 1⁄2 oz lemon juice. Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sage leaf.
Muddle 5 blackberries in a shaker. Add 2 oz gin, 1⁄2 oz St-Germain, and 1⁄2 oz lemon juice. Shake with ice and double strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with blackberries.
Tips for Using St-Germain
To make the most of St-Germain’s flavor in cocktails, keep these bartender tips in mind:
- Use a delicate hand when adding St-Germain to drinks. Its flavor is subtle and easily overpowered.
- Pair it with gin or vodka to allow the elderflower to shine through.
- Add it to sparkling wines like Champagne to create an elegant flavor profile.
- Complementary flavors include berries, stone fruits, herbs like basil or sage, and citrus.
- Try substituting St-Germain for simple syrup in classic cocktails.
- Shake or stir with ice gently when mixing to avoid diluting its delicate taste.
Proper Storage and Handling
To get the most enjoyment out of your bottle of St-Germain:
- Store sealed bottles away from direct light at cool room temperature.
- Refrigerate briefly after opening to best preserve freshness and aromatics.
- Consume within 1-2 months of opening for optimal flavor.
- Don’t let St-Germain’s sweetness fool you – it can still oxidize. Keep bottles tightly sealed.
- If liqueur starts turning brown, it’s oxidized. Discard any product that smells or tastes off.
With its bright yet complex elderflower flavor, St-Germain has become a go-to ingredient for professional bartenders and home mixologists alike. Its versatility allows it to shine when added to classic cocktails, used as the foundation for new drinks, or simply enjoyed chilled on its own. St-Germain is the quintessential example of what makes artisanal liqueurs so special. Next time you want to elevate your cocktail hour, reach for this charming French liqueur and enjoy its floral sophistication.