How To Make An Elderberry Winter Tonic – Recipe Included

This summer I discovered elderberries on our property. And with the help of a friend we harvested a large bucket of the ripe berries. Since I wasn’t sure what to do with them, I put them into the freezer until last week. That’s when I decided I wanted to make a winter tonic using the berries and several other ingredients I had stashed in my cabinets.

If you’re familiar with elderberries you know they can be used to make wines, jellies, syrup, soup, and what I call a tonic. To me, a tonic is something you can drink sparingly that increases your feeling of well-being. It’s not something you drink in large quantities, but a tablespoon of tonic here and there is thought to make you feel enlivened and maybe even a bit more energetic. Some people take small quantities of tonic when they are feeling under the weather. That’s what I desired to create with my elderberries.

I researched a bunch of different recipes online but none of them included all the ingredients I wanted in my tonic. So, as I usually do, I decided to improvise. And I must say the results were outstanding. Here’s my recipe:

4 cups fresh/frozen elderberries

2 cups dried schizandra berries

½ cup dried chaga pieces (or fresh if you can get it)

¼ cup hulled cardamom

4 tsp. dried ginger (or 4 tablespoons of chopped/grated fresh ginger)

4 tsp. ground cinnamon

4 tsp. ground turmeric

¼ cup dried stevia leaves

2 cups raw honey

elderberry winter tonic

Put all the ingredients except the honey into a large pot. I added one cup of water for each cup of fresh berries and two cups for each cup of dried berries. In this case it was eight cups of water (4 cups for the elderberries and 4 cups for the schizandra berries.) Bring the pot to a boil and turn down to a simmer. I let the pot simmer approximately 45 minutes to an hour and stirred occasionally.

At this point the house smelled amazing. I wanted to drink the whole pot but restrained myself. I turned the burner off and let the pot cool down before I added the raw honey, stirring until it was well blended. I then poured the whole mixture into a fine sieve to let the juice run out into another pot. I used the back of a wooden spoon to work the liquid out of the berry mixture. This took a little time.

Once the juice was out I ladled the elderberry & schizandra berry tonic into bottles and put them into the refrigerator. Since there are no preservative it must stay cold.

After this experience I will be making a much bigger batch next year. I absolutely love the taste of this tonic. And I love knowing that some of the ingredients come right from our property. My favorite way the drink it is to add a teaspoon to my jar of lemon water each day. Super yummers!

If you would like to make an elderberry tonic but don’t have all the ingredients I mentioned, it’s okay to improvise. If you don’t have schizandra berries, just use more elderberries. If you don’t have chaga, then leave it out. If you like cloves, then add some. There are so many variations I saw online and all of them looked wonderful.

Hopefully I’ve inspired you to make a winter tonic for yourself. If you do, I promise that your biggest challenge will be how to stop yourself from drinking it all in one big gulp. And please let me know if you have any favorite elderberry recipes. I’d love to hear about them. Just leave a comment in the comment section below.

Much love from the kitchen,


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  1. Marla  November 12, 2013

    This sounds incredible. I made a huge batch of a tonic with just dried elderberries, water and honey over the summer. It is still good after months in the fridge! I wanted something non-alcoholic to give to the kids as elderberries are reputed to ward off colds and flus. They happily take it every day. We take most of the other ingredients you have listed here in teas – but how ingenious to include them in one tonic! Will give this one a go when my first batch runs out!

    • Katrina Mayer  November 12, 2013

      I so glad you liked the recipe, Marla! It really is scrumptious!
      Please let me know how it turns out when you make it!