As the seasons change, the wildlife emerges to reveal the growth of thick foliage and pops of color from flowers in full bloom. This new growth brings a fresh aroma to the air. One of the greatest contributors being that of lilac bushes. Blooming from May to late June, lilacs provide the perfect addition to any garden with their rich scent and pink and purple (sometimes white) hues. However, these plants offer so much more than their look and aroma. Maple Grove resident Mitch Holthaus discovered an alternative use for the fragrant flower: lilac liqueurs. “I was interested in infusing vodka with other flavors,” Holthaus says. “I did some research and saw people were using lilacs.”
Using lilacs from his own backyard, Holthaus says he enjoys sourcing his own ingredients. His property also has an abundance of maple trees from which he makes his own syrup. “It’s cool using your resources in your own backyard,” he says. “It’s a fun project.”
Holthaus says the process is simple but is a little more tedious than he expected. It starts with gathering the blossoms and picking every single individual bud off the stem. After the blossoms are ready, Holthaus places them in a jar with the vodka or gin of his choice. (He recommends 1–1.5 cups of blossoms for every 1–1.5 cups of liquor.) He lets the concoction sit for four to seven days, shaking the jar once every day. After, he strains the liquid. Holthaus says you can either leave it as is or add fresh blossoms for a few more days if desired. Simple syrup can also be mixed in for a touch of sweetness.
As a fun and organic process, Holthaus says it could even be a family activity as the kids can help with the petal-picking process, which would make the tedious part a lot more fun. However, he warns to watch for bees that might be lingering in the flowers while picking the blossoms.
Though the smell of the liqueur is comparable to prunes, Holthaus says the flavor doesn’t match the scent. “It tastes more floral and springy,” he says.
A lot of drinks can be made with a lilac liqueur, but Holthaus is still figuring out what he likes best. Out of everything he’s created so far, the Sidecar is his favorite. He makes his version with brandy, lilac liqueur, orange liqueur and lemon juice. “It’s almost like a nice summery drink,” Holthaus says.
He has also made a lilac lemonade with gin, lilac liqueur, blueberries and lemonade. Similar to the lemonade but a slightly simpler is the lilac lemon drop, which consists of vodka, lilac liqueur, simple syrup and lemon juice.
The lilac liqueur is the first liqueur Holthaus has experimented with, but it won’t be the last. He says he wants to try more things with some of his maple syrup, but he has been too busy playing around with the lilac liqueur.
Developing the liqueur adds to Holthaus’ list of food-centered hobbies. He enjoys experimenting and trying new things in the kitchen. Showcasing his passion for homemade food and drinks on his Instagram (@uffdachef), he features a variety of his creations alongside reviews on his new or favorite breweries around Minnesota.
Lilac Lemon Drop
2 oz. Vodka
.5 oz. lilac liqueur
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lemon juice
Optional: Sugar rim and lemon peel twist for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice and add vodka, lilac liqueur, simple syrup and lemon juice.
Optional garnish: Rub a lemon wedge on the rim of a martini glass and coat the rim of the glass with sugar.
Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass and enjoy!
1.5 oz. gin
.5–.75 oz. lilac liqueur
Optional: 5–7 blueberries for color and a lemon peel twist for garnish
Fill the shaker with ice. Add the gin, lilac liqueur and optional blueberries.
Shake until chilled.
Fill a tall glass with ice, and pour the contents of the shaker through a strainer into the glass.
Top off the drink with lemonade, and garnish with lemon peel twist.