May Day Punch – Recipes for Waldmeisterbowle

Our holy tide of Walpurgis, known and celebrated by others as May Day or as Beltane is only days away! To help get in the mood (and to allow you guys a chance to pick up ingredients) here’s  recipes for a traditional May Day Punch from Germany, known as Waldmeisterbowle.


Of course finding the main ingredient, the waldermeister or woodruff, can be a bit tricky. Sweet woodruff is a perennial herb whose small white flowers bloom in May and June. It is widely available at garden nurseries in many parts of the US, and makes for an excellent ground cover (especially in shaded areas). Woodruff has a scent that’s been described as being a combination of part fresh mown grass/hay, part vanilla, & part cinnamon. Varying on the recipe you’ll either need to use the woodruff directly, or a syrup made from the woodruff.


Do keep in mind that woodruff is a poisonous plant (but you have to ingest a very large quantity of it for it to be harmful), however many of the woodruff syrups available commercially today are artificially flavored and don’t actually contain woodruff.

You might find the herb at a specialty gourmet spice store near you, sometimes you can find it on amazon, or you may need to track down the plant from a nursery. There’s also a very common alternative instead of using genuine woodruff you can go find the faux Waldmeister syrup at specialty grocers or amazon. In Germany Waldmeister syrup is added to beer, soft drinks, sports drinks, ice cream, baked goods and more! There are other food products that are also made to capitalize on this traditional, seasonal flavor of Germany: gelatin, hard and soft candies including the crocodile treats that have been made for almost 100 years. Woodruff, or waldmeister, is very much a seasonal, and cultural taste of spring in Germany.



A Modern Traditional Recipe

  • 1 bunch of Waldmeister, known in the US as sweet woodruff* (about 0.2 to 0.35 ounces)
  • 2 squirts of lime juice or lemon juice
  • 2 bottles of dry white wine
  • 1 bottle of semi-dry sparkling wine
  • ice cubes

Let the bunch of woodruff dry somewhat and poor one bottle of white wine into a punchbowl. To prevent the toxic substances of the woodruff from entering the punch, you should dip the bunch of woodruff into the wine, tied together with a string so that the stem ends stick out; let steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the woodruff and discard. Add the remaining white wine and top off with the sparkling wine. Chill with ice cubes placed under the bowl. If you would like it sweeter, you may add some sugar.

Alcohol-free version

  • 1 tablespoon of sweet woodruff syrup
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 600 ml apple juice
  • 400 ml sparkling water

Mix all the ingredients and serve chilled.

An Alternative Recipe: IVAR’S MAY PUNCH
This appears to be from the Southern U.S. and represents an American twist from German descendants.

  • 1 gallon white wine (Riesling is best)
  • 1 pint Southern Comfort (gives it a peachy flavor), or Yukon Jack for a different flavor
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, thoroughly cleaned and stems removed
  • 1/2 cup dried sweet woodruff herb (waldmeister), crumbled
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar

Begin your preparation the day before the punch is to be consumed. This enables the flavors to bloom.

The day before the punch will be served:

Heat the Southern Comfort until it is very warm to the touch, but do
not let it boil. Steep the sweet woodruff in the Southern Comfort overnight (there is no need to refrigerate, but it is best to cover the mixture to prevent evaporation). Thoroughly dredge the
strawberries in the sugar. Place the sugared strawberries in a covered
container and refrigerate overnight. Chill the wine overnight.

The day the punch will be served:

Strain the Southern Comfort/woodruff mixture and discard the solid
material. The Southern Comfort may have a somewhat cloudy appearance
now. Not to worry.

Add the strained Southern Comfort / woodruff infusion to the wine and stir well. Add the sugared strawberries and any juice that may have leached out of them overnight. Stir. Chill the mixture for at least two hours before serving. If the punch bowl will be sitting at room temperature for a substantial period during the festivities, a single block of ice may be floated in the punch to keep it cold. Do not add small ice cubes or crushed ice, since they will melt quickly.

When you dole out the punch, try to make certain that every cup gets at least one of the strawberries.

Make Your Own Woodruff Syrup from Scratch

1st recipe

  • 1 bunch sweet woodruff (for this recipe, one that is not blooming yet)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (+ 1 teaspoon citric acid)

1. Cook a syrup from water, sugar, lemon juice and citric acid.

2. When the syrup is cool, pour into a bottle and add sweet woodruff in it. Let stand for about 5 days in the fridge or any other cool place.

3. After 5 days, remove the plant from the syrup, straining as necessary. Close the syrup in the bottle. Optional: In Germany people would add a few drops of green food coloring, since there everything related with sweet woodruff should be green. 

2nd recipe

  • 1/2 l apple juice (without sugar!)
  • 250 g honey
  • 1 bunch sweet woodruff

1. Steep woodruff in apple juice for 20 minutes. After this time, strain the juice from the plant.

2. In a saucepan, cook (very briefly) the apple-woodruff juice mixture with honey. While still hot, fill the bottle. To prepare a delicious drink, dissolve 1 part of apple-sweet woodruff syrup in 4 parts mineral water.

3rd recipe

  • 300 g (1 & 1/4 cups) water
  • 250 g (1 cup) sugar
  • 25 sweet woodruff blooms
  • lemon juice

1. Add blossoms to water, and stir.

2. Cover container of blossom water with cling film (plastic wrap) and let it rest at room temperature for 24 hours.

3. Add sugar to a pot, and drain the blossom water through a sieve into the pot. Now turn the cooktop to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it starts to boil, turn off the stove.

4. You’ll want to let the mixture cool to room temperature, and now you can store it, or use it. When it’s time to use it, it’s recommended you add some lemon juice (1/4 cup) as it brightens the flavor, and then add that to your punch.

This recipe comes with a youtube video on how to make it here.



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