Photo: Tammy Green, Flickr
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur is 20% abv. / 40 proof artisinal French liqueur that is available in limited quantities. It is a very light pale gold color and a medium light body. The aroma is primarily flowers and fruit, think of pears and lychee, and is lightly sweet and tart on the nose. The taste is like the aroma, very floral plus lychee's and pears, with maybe the slightest hint of citrus. It has a refreshing tartness up front, a mild sweetness in the middle, with a long finish of the two combined. The taste and smell stays with you for quite a while, filling you mouth and nose with its luscious fruit and flowers.
St. Germain is an absolutely delightful liqueur and since it isn't too sweet I find that even people who dislike most sweet liqueurs enjoy it very much. While it is an elegant liqueur for sipping straight or on crushed ice for a post meal libation, it also is fabulous in cocktails.
The elderflower has been used for medicinal purposes for ages and so it has also been available in syrup form for quite a long time. Many bartenders have also used it in various cocktails, but St. Germain is the first elderflower liqueur / spirit. Released in the US early last year, it is created from fresh picked elderflowers which are macerated / infused in eau de vie and/or distilled (the process is secret, of course), plus small amounts of citrus, and sweetened just a little.
There is a great story about the harvesting of the elderflowers at the company website. They are picked by hand in the French Alps and carefully put into sacks and then the men cart them to market by bicycle. There are between 40 and 50 men who do this slow, careful process to provide the flowers for each year's batch of liqueur.
I was called down to a friend's store a few weeks ago to pick up a bottle of the St. Germain Liqueur. I had been looking for it for a few months but since it is only available on a limited basis. I hadn't seen it yet, although I had tried it in a few cocktails at an event a few weeks earlier. My friend had saved the last bottle in the store for me since the next shipment wasn't going to be in for a few weeks. I bought the bottle and did some more shopping before I decided to visit another fine wine and spirits shop in the neighborhood.
The second store I visited, Astor Wines & Spirits, has a great selection of all my favorites. Gin, aged rum, Bourbon, single malts, liqueurs, dessert wines, sake, and shochu. I walked over to the gin area first and saw another guy studying the gins intently. We got in a conversation about gins and I knew that I had met someone who is as fanatical about gin as I am, something quite rare. We then started talking about liqueurs as we wandered over to that section, each of us weighed down with several gins that were new to us. We found a few liqueurs that seemed interesting and I picked out one I hadn't tried before made from red pine fruit from the Austrian Alps. (I'll review it soon.)
We had a great conversation about spirits and liqueurs for a good long while when he asked me if I had tried St. Germain. He pointed to it on the shelf, freshly stocked, and with a short piece from the New York Times pasted under it. I told him about just picking up the last bottle at another store a few minutes earlier. He introduced himself as Simon Difford of the Diffords Guides and handed me one of his guides to peruse. He then mentioned that he was also UK brand manager for St. Germain.
I was amazed at the coincidence since I had just bought a bottle and was going to head home to do some research on the liqueur while I sampled it. He told me that he had been doing a product event the night before and was on his way straight to the airport to head to the International Bar show in Las Vegas immediately after leaving the store. We both had to run in different directions but Simon promised to send me a bunch of cocktail recipes using the St. Germain liqueur, as soon as he got back to the UK from the show. Which he did right away.
Well it is a small world and the strangest things tend to happen. Who would think that you would run into a brand manager, from a different continent, for something that you had just bought and were going to review?