Himalayan Hooch

Himalayan Balsam is the bad guy foragers have a secret crush on. This gorgeous recipe offers an ingenious way to use its blossoms before it does any more invading!

Himalayan Hooch or Himalayan Balsam champagne
This gorgeous alcoholic pink fizz is an excellent way of using up Himalayan Balsam flowers

It might be an invasive species but Himalayan Balsam is a versatile edible that also lends some colourful exoticism to our riverbanks. An added appeal is that picking large quantities of this plant is also guilt free — the Environment Agency actively encourages its destruction, organising community “balsam bashing” trips. It’s only the bees that will miss it, but their time would be better spent pollinating our native plant species.

Himalayan Balsam flowers

There are many options for using Himalayan Balsam flowers — making gins, syrups, jams and teas, amongst others — but this easy-to-make, salmon-pink fizz has an all-round appeal. You can call it a “fizz”, you could call it a “Champagne”, but we call it Himalayan Hooch because it reminds us of the alcoholic lemonade Hooch beloved of 90s teenagers — only more delicate and sophisticated.


This recipe will make approximately 4litres after wastage and should turn out at around 5% alcohol. Don’t worry about using 1litre bottles and thinking they are too large, it is quite moreish!


Ingredients

1 litre jug of Himalayan Balsam flowers

2 lemons, quartered

2 tbsp cider vinegar

650g sugar

4.5 litres/1gallon cold water

Half a sachet of champagne yeast


Equipment

Fermenting bucket/food-grade plastic bucket with sealable lid

Syphoning tube

Sterilised plastic drinks bottles