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Elderflower Syrup: Facts and myths



Elderflower syrup is the key ingredient used in the popular all-South Tyrolean drink, Hugo. The syrup is made with elderflowers and in this post we'll share the original recipe.

Many may not know, but Hugo drink was invented in 2005 by a bartender, Ronad Gruber, originally from Naturns, a small town northwest from Bolzano, as an alternative to the Aperol Spritz.

The name was randomly chosen and initially was supposed to be Otto, however Gruber didn’t think is sounded right so he picked the name Hugo.

Hugo drink

Hugo drink

What do we know about this white, summery scented flower?

Elderflowers blossom in South Tyrol from mid May until June, at the edge of fields, along watercourses and on the mountains above 800 mt - 2624 ft asl. The plant is originally from Britain, it’s very common and can be found throughout the Mediterranean. We know its origin goes back to the ancient time, since the term itself comes from the Greek “sambyke”.

Many legends and myths are connected and attributed to this plant: it is said that elders would protect people from lightning when they sheltered under them from a storm, because legend has it that Christ’s cross was made from elder wood.

Additionally according to popular belief, the elder is a tree of joy: planted close to home, it attracts good spirits and keeps snakes away.

How do we use these flowers?

In the kitchen for soups, omelettes, pastries, jams, jellies and to flavor liqueurs or wines. Also it has many uses in natural medicine, where it is used to treat excess uric acid, arthritis, furuncles to name a few.

Elderflower homemade syrup

Here’s the ingredients and recipe for a homemade elderflower syrup: 1.3 kg di sugar/ 6 1/2 cups Juice of 3 lemons 1 l water/4 cups 15 elderflowers umbels


Combine the sugar and water and lemon juice in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring, until the sugar is all melted. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature before adding the flowers that have to be previously removed from their stems.

Leave them to macerate for 48 hours (in a cool room) and then pour it through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a cheesecloth or a paper towel into a clean jar/bottle. Bottle the syrup – use tight screw tops.

This syrup will usually keep for 1 year as is, stored in a dark, cool place (cellar/fridge). To make sure it keeps this long or even longer, after straining, you can boil the syrup for 5 minutes in a large pot before filling it, still hot, into bottles. Once opened, store the bottle in the fridge.


If you are interested in discovering more of beautiful South Tyrol, its culture, history and culinary traditions or need help to plan your accommodation and activities, please contact us at

We'd love to share our experience and knowledge of the territory with you!

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