I love this deep purple, round, fruity, rich liqueur that remotely reminds me a tawny Port wine. First time I made it was some years ago, when I was planning for DIY Christmas gifts. From then to now my production has become close to overwhelming, because every single person who tasted it keeps asking for more year after year. Elderberry and rhum couple each other very well and the result is rather sweet. Keep in mind that resting will sweeten the liqueur, so I reduced the sugar amount from my first experiment.

Liquore di sambuco

Pay attention (poisonous):
There are several species of Sambucus. Sambucus nigra is the most commonly used variety of elderberry, but someone uses Sambucus racemosa as well (I don’t).  Care should be taken to only use elderflowers, and ripe, cooked berries.  Unripe and/or raw berries, leaves, stems and bark should not be consumed because they contain a poisonous cyanide-like compound that causes nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, and can even bring to coma and death. One variety, the dwarf elder (S. ebulus) should NEVER be used, as it is toxic. 

Now that I’ve scared to death let’s take a look at the recipe. It seems a little tricky but it’s not, trust me. More difficult to tell than to make it.


  • 1 kg Elderberry berries
  • 750gr sugar
  • 1 liter water
  • ½ lemon fresh juice
  • 500 ml absolute alcohol (ethanol)
  • 1 liter rhum


The truly time consuming part of processing elderberries is the stripping of the berries from their stems, so don’t pick 3 full bags in a day, if you don’t want to spend the 3 days after processing berries.

N.B. Always rinse them AFTER stripping from their stem, otherwise de-stemming could become nearly impossible. When crushed the berries stain immediatedly your clothes and hands as well. I use latex gloves and a dark apron while harvesting and cleaning the elderberries.

Place berries and half of the water in a large pot and crush with a potato masher to release some of the juices. Let them simmer until they turn to a soft pulp. Remove from heat and wait until cold.

Place a 2 layers cheesecloth over a funnel and slowly transfer the mashed berries and juice, than squeeze gently to strain the juice out into the bottle (i use the immersion blender beaker). Do not strain too much, ‘cause you don’t want too much pulp in your liqueur. You can re-use the pulp later to make some elderberry-buckwheat muffins.

Put the juice in a large pot with 500gr of sugar, heat and stir until all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and wait until cold. Than add the absolute alcohol. Let it rest for about a week in closed bottles.

Make a syrup with 500ml of water and the remaining sugar (250gr), boil a few minutes and wait until it’s cold. Than add the rhum and bottle.

And now the hardest part of it all: wait at least 2 months before tasting it!

Check other Eldertree recipes


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