I’m in New York this week, which was perhaps serendipitous since it’s May Day, and with it, came a lesson in sweet woodruff from Grandma Pellegrini.

Sweet woodruff, is also known as Master of the Woods. It is a perennial, with small white flowers that bloom in May and June and star-like leaves in circles of six or eight.

On May 1st, the Germans use Sweet Woodruff to make May wine, which they drink both as a spring tonic and to salute the new season.

It has other uses as well — The haylike odor of dried sweet woodruff intensifies and persists for years, which is why it is sometimes used as a fixative for perfumes. It was also once used as a scenting herb for homes and churches and for stuffing mattresses. The dried leaves were even once used to give linen closets a sweet aroma, as well as to keep moths away.

To make May wine, Grandma Pellegrini and I picked 7 stems from a plant we purchased at an herb farm. She’s got big plans for her herb garden this year.

We tied it with some raffia string at the stem.

Then we stuffed it into the opening of the bottle.

And we waited for 15 – 20 minutes. You want to use leaves that are without blossoms and if they are a bit dry that is even better since they will be more potent. You can also use this to sweeten milk or apple juice.

Then you pull it out by the string. You don’t want to leave it in too long, because too much sweet woodruff can be toxic.

Pour it in some glasses.

Float a little in there for some garnish.

And voila! Happy May Day from Grandma P. & me!

“Sweet Woodruff Wine”

Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time17 mins
Servings: 1 bottle


  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 7 stems sweet woodruff


  • Tie the stems of the woodruff with a string and stuff it into the opening of the wine bottle, leaving the string outside the bottle.
  • Let it soak for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bunch and serve the wine!


Ingredients such as brandy, sparkling wine or carbonated water, and sugar can also be added to flavor the drink and create a punch. Strawberries are also often floated in the drink since they are in season.