A few weeks ago I was in Davis Square’s Downtown Wine & Spirits when I spotted a new-to-me bottle of liqueur called St. Elder. I’ve been a fan of St. Germain–the original elderflower liqueur–for a long time, so the bottle piqued my interest. After turning it over and realizing it was made right here in Somerville, I had to know more.
So I recently took a trip down to M.S. Walker, an alcohol wholesaler, supplier and manufacturer with offices in the Inner Belt. The factory facility is impressive–it’s a vast space filled with all the components necessary to make and bottle liquors and liqueurs. M.S. Walker’s corporate offices are also housed in its building at 20 Third Ave. and that’s where I met Justin Shaw and Evonne Wetzner, who have been working on the marketing side of St. Elder since its conception six months ago.
“It went through 30 rounds of testing,” Shaw said. “It was a really rigorous process for us. We wanted to make it better and cheaper. We wanted to make a phenomenal product.”
M.S. Walker, which has operated in the Boston area for about 80 years and in Somerville for more than 30, generally makes a lot of commodity alcohol products, like vodka, rum and whisky. St. Elder is the company’s first step into the more artisanal, craft market.
To make a product less expensive but still just as flavorful as St. Germain, M.S. Walker used less expensive glass and glass molds and a less ornate cap and closure for the bottles. The company employed a former Ocean Spray flavor developer to tweak the taste so it would be just as appealing to consumers.
And that seems to be paying off. St. Elder has only been on the market for about a month, but it is already stocked in 900 stores and restaurants/bars in Massachusetts. As the product rolls out, M.S. Walker hopes to capitalize on the fact that it’s made in Somerville.
“The local and even less local reputation of this town and area is shifting to be a little more craft,” Shaw said. He also emphasized that St. Elder is all natural, unlike many other flavored products, which use artificial flavors.
If you want to get a taste of St. Elder, several Somerville bars are stocking it, like The Independent in Union Square, Olde Magoun’s Saloon and Orleans, Posto and Five Horses Tavern in Davis Square. And if you want to drink it at home, Wetzner said her favorite way to consume St. Elder is in a Greyhound. (Shake 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of St. Elder, 2 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.) Shaw said he’s been enjoying it in glasses of prosecco and even made a version of a mojito with it. Cheers!
All images courtesy of St. Elder.