In October I took my first trip to England. One of my initial stops in London, I'm reluctant to admit, was at a Starbucks. It was less of a caffeine necessity and more of a restroom necessity, but nonetheless, waltzing into a chain that I make a conscious effort to avoid in the states was not how I wanted to start my British travels. Since I felt obligated to buy something in exchange for the use of the facilities, but wanted desperately not to appear a stereotypical American who travels thousands of miles only to buy something I could get around the corner, I decided that a distinctively English beverage was in order. Tea would have been the obvious choice, but I refused to let my first British tea experience happen in a Starbucks, so I sought out something different.
As I perused the cold beverage case, my eye was drawn to a lovely, petite bottle with a decorative label that read “Elderflower Presse.” Unfamiliar with the flavor of elderflower, I was a bit afraid that the drink might taste like one of those herby, medicinal concoctions, but I decided to give it a try anyway.
The aroma was fragrant, sweetly floral and slightly lemony and it made my salivary glands go crazy as I breathed it in. As I tasted it, I was reminded of my first taste of orange blossom water (a memory still vividly clear twenty years later) which was totally unique and delicious with a lingering finish that left me wanting for more. The Elderflower Presse was also nicely enhanced by a slight effervescence.
Sitting in the window seat at Starbucks, thoroughly enjoying my new discovery and watching the double decker buses pass by, my mind was a flurry of ideas — elderflower sorbet, cake soaked in elderflower syrup garnished with fresh berries, elderflower and mint cocktails. How was it possible that I had never heard of, let alone tasted this before?
When I returned to the States, I did some research to see where I could buy elderflowers to work on some of my own concoctions. I was surprised to learn that I could buy elderflower concentrate at Ikea of all places. While lacking a bit of purity of flavor, as compared with the Elderflower Presse I had in London (possibly due to the fresh lemon juice added to the London version,) I have to say that the Ikea concentrate is not a bad place to start. So far I've only toyed around with mixing the concentrate in sparkling water or sparkling wine and enhancing it with fresh citrus and mint, but now that I know I have a reliable resource, I intend to explore this unique flavor in much more depth.