Clusters of rowanberries in a tree

Magical rowanberry liqueur

Rowanberries are one of nature’s great surprises. Some years, you can hardly find them; other years, every rowan tree is heavy with them. In Norwegian folklore, rowanberries predict how much snow will fall each winter. Where I grew up, lots of rowanberries indicates that the trees are strengthening their branches to handle large loads of snow. In other parts of Norway, the opposite is said: rowan trees can only carry a large load once, so branches “heavy with berry” mean little snow will fall.

The flavour of rowanberries is another surprise. Although they look inviting, if eaten straight from the tree they are tart, bitter and quite unpleasant. After the first frost, however, they are sweeter and milder, and their own particular flavour comes to the surface. You can mimic this by freezing the berries before using them.

Rowanberries are most commonly used to make a jelly that is served with meat dishes. There are numerous recipes online, but I personally recommend one that combines the berries with apples.

This year has been a rowanberry year in Norway, and I recommend trying something new: rowanberry liqueur. Something wonderful happens in the intersection between sugar, berries, alcohol and time, and this liqueur is unlike anything else. Time is essential when making liqueur; the longer you leave it, the better it is.

You can adjust the amounts based on how large a jar you have available and how much liqueur you’d like to make. One cinnamon stick and two cloves is enough for a 1–2 litre jar.


Rowanberries that have been frozen
Neutral spirit (40–60%) or vodka
2 cloves
1 small cinnamon stick
Peel of 1 orange


  1. Rinse the rowanberries with water and let them dry completely. Remove their stems and discard any bad berries.
  2. Fill a large jar 2/3 full with rowanberries, then add sugar until it just covers the berries. Shake and twist the jar repeatedly to let the sugar fall in between the berries – there will be room for much more sugar than you think.
  3. Give the orange a good rinse under lukewarm water, then cut off the zest, ideally in long strips.
  4. Add the orange zest and spices to the jar.
  5. Fill the jar to the top with a neutral spirit or vodka. Tighten the lid and place somewhere dry, cool, dark and out of reach of children.
  6. For the first 3–5 days, give the jar a little shake every day to help the sugar dissolve, then leave it alone for 3–4 weeks (whenever you remember, and when at least 3 weeks have passed).
  7. Strain the contents through a fine sieve into a clean container. Leave to drain for a while so you get as much liquid as possible – you don’t want to waste any of those delicious drops. Taste the liqueur and adjust to taste:
    • If it is just right, move to step 8.
    • If it is too strong, add boiled water that has been left to cool completely, until you reach the desired taste and texture.
    • If it is too sharp or not sweet enough, make a simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then take off the heat and let it cool completely. Add this syrup, a little at a time, until you’re happy with the flavour.
  8. When you’re happy with the flavour, pour the liqueur into clean, sterile bottles. Now starts the real waiting game. The flavour will keep developing over time, and you should definitely not open it before 6 months have passed; 9–12 months is even better. You’ll be rewarded with a unique and complex flavour. Store the bottles somewhere dark, dry, cool and out of reach of children.

Serve on its own or over ice. If you’re feeling adventurous, we have it on good authority that it’s delicious poured over ice cream.