Sweet woodruff syrup – Waldmeistersirup & Maibowle









It is near impossible imagining Germany in May without Waldmeister, sweet woodruff. The faint vanilla-sweet smelling herb infuses the traditional Maibowle (may wine punch), imparts its astounding fresh aroma onto vivid green coloured jelly, ice creams and green gummy bears. Waldmeister syrup mixes with sparkling water for a herby-sweet spring lemonade and flavours a refreshing Berliner Weisse (beer). But drizzle it onto a perfect ball (or two) of mascarpone ice cream, add the best strawberries and you might as well find yourself in paintings by Watteau or Boucher: on a pastoral meadow enveloped by mellow air or a wood clearing in dappled shade, immersed into the scents of spring, traveling to the island Cythera in gallant company. Think she’s laying it on a bit thick? Try it.

Sweet woodruff is native in European beech & oak woods though is found as well in the Eurasian part of the world, spreading from Turkey, Siberia, Kasachstan as far as Asia. People like my Mum will find it easily, I forage it on the local market stalls where it appears from the end of April to Mid-June. Some recipes have you wilt, dry or freeze the plant to intensify the aroma though I find using the fresh bunch works equally fine and save myself the hassle. There is one issue though: sweet woodruff contains coumarin, which can be toxic when ingested in large doses and can cause headaches. Therefore the syrup should be consumed in small doses or diluted, guidelines recommend using 2-3 plants or 5 grams sweet woodruff per litre of water respectively 2mg of coumarin per kg food (check your country’s law if you are selling).

Before you freak out and shake your head about us, these crazy, weird Germans: large amounts of coumarin are also found in Mexican Vanilla (aka Tonka beans), a cherry variety, dates & cinnamon made from cassia bark – possibly making a lot of bake sale items highly illegal….





Waldmeistersirup & Maibowle – Sweet woodruff syrup

Yield: a little over 1.5 litres / 51 oz. syrup.


1.5l / 51 oz. water
1kg / 35.3 oz. / 4½ cups caster sugar
20g / 0.7 oz. citric acid
1 bunch sweet woodruff
green food colouring (optional)


Dissolve sugar in water over low heat, then leave to cool and add citric acid. Tie the bunch of sweet woodruff to a wooden spoon resting on top of your chosen vessel (like this) so that the herbs are suspended in the completely cooled liquid. The stem ends should not be submerged since they would leak too much coumarin. Infuse for 2-5 days, filter and decant into bottles (previously washed with hot water). If you like, dye the sweet woodruff syrup a vivid green colour.


Enjoy diluted in sparkling water with a slice of lemon or make the traditional German May punch Maibowle:

mix ½ l dry white wine, ¼ l dry sparkling wine with a dash of sweet woodruff syrup (normally a bunch is used to infuse the wine for up to 15 minutes, no longer otherwise the Coumarin content would become to high and would give you a rather strong headache), a sprig of mint and lemon balm and thin slices of two lemons. Or use it to colour a refreshing Berliner Weisse, drizzle over strawberries & ice cream.




Deutsches Rezept:

Sweet woodruff syrup - Waldmeistersirup

Waldmeistersirup & Maibowle

Ergibt etwas mehr als 1.5 Liter.


1,5l Wasser
1kg Zucker
20g Zitronensäure
1 Bund Waldmeister
grüne Lebensmittelfarbe (optional)


Zucker in Wasser über kleiner Flamme auflösen, dann abkühlen lassen und Zitronensäure hinzugeben. Das Bund Waldmeister kopfüber in den kalten Sirup hängen und an einen Löffel, der quer über dem Gefäß liegt (so wie hier), anbinden. Die Stilenden sollten nicht in den Sirup getaucht werden, da sie zuviel Cumarin abgeben. Für 2-5 Tage ziehen lassen, dann filtern und in heißausgespülte Flaschen geben. Nach Bedarf mit grüner Farbe einfärben.

Mit Mineralwasser verdünnt genießen oder für eine erfrischende Waldmeister-Berliner Weiße verwenden. Lecker auch im Frühling über Erdbeeren & cremiges Eis geträufelt. An erster Stelle steht aber die typisch deutsche Maibowle: ½ l trockener Weißwein, ¼ l trockener Sekt, 1 Zweig Minze, 1 Zweig Zitronenmelisse mit einem Schuß (ungefärbtem) Waldmeistersirup aromatisieren und mit dünnen Scheiben von 1-2 Zitronen servieren.


17 thoughts on “Sweet woodruff syrup – Waldmeistersirup & Maibowle

    • Hi Gerlinde, can’t say I have seen it either when we lived there – although I was totally moved when my favourite vegetable market had German bread & at one point white asparagus! If you are going over the mountains: The Milk Pail, San Antonio Rd., Mountain View (bordering Palo Alto). Close by: a bevmo with the biggest selection of German beers & a German butcher with all things homesick people need from time to time… N.

  1. Wow, never even heard about it before. Really must go and explore our woods and see if I can find any. Sounds very, very good. Also, I have no idea of what it might taste like, which is quite unusual for an omnivore… It will be a pleasant surprise. How exciting! Thank you! J xx
    PS Prefer the German name 😉

    • Jeanette, that’s wonderful. i love to discover new things, so tell the minute you have found some and are starting. Best harvested before flowering (lower coumarin levels) and do not submerge the stems for they leak milky coumarin-heavy sap. Best to avoid the headache. Ok, Waldmeister tastes kind of green, sweet & herby with the scent of fresh hay & vanilla. Just out of this world. Just scoffed all the ice cream in the picture and could go back for more (only undyed syrup left now). N. xx
      I prefer the German name too, a forest ward, a little Lord of the Rings meets Georgina Rossetti…

  2. I always thought waldmeister syrup was some sugar syrup with green colouring!! Haha oh how ignorant of me. I guess now I understand the confusion when I saw the waldmeister plant at obi a while ago. Ooops!

  3. I’ve never heard of this. Amazing. Now I want to try it. I’ve heard of the caumarin in cinnamon, which caused an uproar here in the states a few months ago. I find it fascinating. I need to try mascarpone ice cream too! Always an education over here! xo

    • Thank you, Amanda and hope you’ll find some – I love it since I was a child. Re Mascarpone ice cream, coming right after this rhubarb-orange-almond cake… Delicious. N xx

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