This simple punch originated in Germany and is traditionally served on May Day. Sweet woodruff*, Galium odoratum, is a creeping herb found in shady patches under trees. Its leaves and flowers add sweet, herbal, vanilla and woody notes to dry white wine and champagne. Pick the leaves and flowers the day before, so they dry out slightly and give off a stronger scent.
MAKES 14 SERVINGS
1 small bunch fresh sweet woodruff
4 tbsp caster sugar
750ml bottle dry white wine, such as a German Reisling
750ml bottle champagne or dry sparkling wine
small nonstick pan
1 First you need to dry out some of the woodruff. Remove any damaged leaves from the bunch and spread out about a third on a baking sheet. Place on the bottom shelf of a recently switched-off oven, with the door open, or in an airing cupboard, overnight.
2 Meanwhile, line a Tupperware box with a damp sheet of paper towel and place the remaining leaves and flowers inside to stay fresh. Seal the box and place in the fridge until just before you serve the punch.
3 About two hours before serving, heat the water and sugar in the nonreactive pan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool. Meanwhile, place the semi- dried woodruff in a punch bowl and pour the dry white wine over it. Cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour.
4 As soon as the sugar syrup has cooled, add it to the punch bowl, stir, and return to the fridge for an hour. Before serving, remove the semi-dried woodruff with a ladle and replace with the fresh leaves and flowers from the Tupperware box.
5 Serve in a wine glass topped up with bubbly and garnished with a woodruff leaf or flower.
Suggestion: Strawberries, or even better, wild strawberries would also make a great addition to this punch, as would wild violet flowers and lemon slices.
* Sweet woodruff has been used since the Middle Ages to treat everything from cuts to liver problems. Today herbalists use it as an anti- inflammatory and to treat stomach ache. It contains coumarin, which is toxic in high doses, so drink this punch in moderation, won’t you?
Recipe taken from Wild Cocktails by Lottie Muir (Cico Books, £16.99) Photography by Kim Lightbody.