One of my favorite moments from this season of Mad Men is when Bert Cooper is celebrating their (too-early) plan to go public. Pete offers to pour him a drink and Bert asks if Pete has any "spirits of elderflower". It's a fantastic and decidedly European request, hilariously placed for a strange man of the world like Bert Cooper. So what is a spirit of elderflower? It's a liquer made from the flowers of the elderberry plant. The most well-known is St. Germain, a French liquer (/another France Hamdam reference) that is traditionally drunk straight or mixed with champagne. It's also traditionally used in several old-timey cocktails if you ever go to one of those fancy cocktail bars that have lately become the rage.
But liquers of elderflower are not easy to make. The flowers do not grow well in nurseries, every known bottler picks them from the wild in the Alps. They only flower for a 4-6 week period. They're very fragile, having to be picked by hand, and lose a lot of flavor soon after picking*. After they're picked by hand, they're moved only by bicycle, not truck (yes, really) to be macerated right in the alpine fields. Exact recipes for the commercial brands are all a secret, but in general they all boast of how careful their picking and bottling process is to maintain the flavor of the flowers. So next time you're in a liquor store, maybe seek out some spirits of elderflower. It's a tasty liquer that is delicately hand-made and shipped around the world for your consumptive tastes. It's a beautiful world sometimes.
*Ever notice that fresh store-bought blueberries suck compared to frozen ones? Same problem of losing flavor immediately after picking. Frozen blueberries are flash-frozen in the field on special trucks, it's why they're so much tastier than ones you buy "fresh" at the store. Every decent bakery and restaurant uses frozen blueberries, it's the key to good flavor in your muffin/pancake/etc.