How To Make Cordial: Easy Steps In Creating A Signature Drink

How-To Guides

Homemade Elderflower Syrup in a Bottle

The art of making cordial has been around since the 18th century, and today bartenders are using it to be innovative with their recipes.

The taste of your homemade cordial depends on what ingredients you use. It simply requires you to combine sugar, fruit, water, and a preservative in a saucepan over heat and let the flavors combine. The result is a delicious sweet and sour product with many uses.

This article will help walk you through how to make cordial to pair with a signature drink, and we'll also offer some basic cordial recipes and valuable tips!

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What is a Cordial?

Bottle and glasses of cordial on a tray with cherries and flowers

A cordial is a refreshing drink that can be made with any fruit flavor. It's an easy way to spice up your next glass of iced tea or water, and they're delicious too! A classic example would include the elderflower, lime, and berry cordial, which are all readily available at most grocery stores.

Adding citric acid to the mix is optional, but it’ll keep cordials fresh for an extended period! Moreover, how you make it depends on the type of drinker you are – if you like something sweet or not!

Cordial vs. Liqueur vs. Squash: What's the Difference?

The word "cordial" is often used interchangeably with "liqueur." The latter is a sweetened distilled spirit with a lower ABV, commonly used as a flavoring for cocktails. Famous examples include ChambordBaileys, and Kahlua.

A lot of people treat the two as the same except the British. In the United Kingdom, a cordial is a non-alcoholic fruity drink with a bit of syrup-like consistency. 

Meanwhile, another drink called "squash" is also often compared with the cordial. Squash is a concentrated product made from sugar and water mixed with fruit juice. It may also contain other flavorings like herbs and spices and are occasionally added with food coloring to make it more vibrant.

Like liqueur, there isn't much difference between a cordial and a squash, except their fruit concentrate percentage. Squashes usually have a bigger percentage of fruit, starting at 30%, whereas cordials only have about 10-15%. Squashes may also have a thicker consistency.

What You’ll Need

Cordials are available in many delicious flavors, and we'll gladly share some of our favorites with you. But for starters, let us learn how to make one of the most common flavors - lime. This cordial recipe will follow the British definition of cordial, meaning it's not alcoholic.

Ingredients

Tools

How to Make Cordial: Step-by-Step Guide

Preparing the Ingredients

Zesting limes on a cutting board

  1. Using a peeler or zester, scrape off the peel from your limes and put them in a bowl.
  2. Get your cutting board and knife and cut your limes in half.
  3. Extract the juice from each halved lime using a citrus squeezer over a large bowl.
  4. Measure the needed amount and set it aside.
  5. Measure the other ingredients accordingly.

Making the Cordial

woman's hands pouring sugar into a saucepan

  1. In a bowl, combine the lime juice and citric acid. Set it aside.
  2. Pour the water, lime peels, and sugar into a medium saucepan and bring it into the stove over medium heat.
  3. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Make sure that the mixture is only simmering or gently boiling. Otherwise, reduce the heat.
  4. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the lime juice and citric acid mixture.
  5. Cover the saucepan and allow the mixture to infuse and cool at room temperature for about an hour.

Sterilizing the Bottles

Clean empty glass transparent bottles

  1. While the mixture is cooling and infusing, preheat your oven to 230°F and prepare the bottles to be sterilized.
  2. Wash the jars or bottles, along with the lids, in hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.
  3. Place the containers upside down on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. This will dry them off and sterilize them.
  4. Simultaneously, place the rubber seals or gaskets of your mason jars (if there's any) in a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Then, remove them from the water and allow them to air dry.
  5. Once the jars are done in the oven, carefully remove them and allow them to cool before putting the rubber seals on.

Filling up the Bottles

Bottles filled with lime cordial

  1. Strain the cooled cordial into a pitcher over a muslin cloth.
  2. Place a funnel over the sterilized jar or bottle, and pour the cordial into the jar, leaving a small gap from the container’s mouth.
  3. Put on the lid immediately.
  4. Store the jar in a refrigerator until use.

You can also watch a tutorial on how to make lime cordial. Please note that there may be slight modifications to the procedure shown in the video.

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Other Popular Cordial Flavors

There are many other ingredients you can use in making a fantastic fruit cordial. You can use a single ingredient in each batch or a combination of them. For every variation below, the procedure is pretty much the same.

However, if you're using non-citrus fruits (like peaches), you can dice them into smaller pieces. Moreover, if the fruit can be muddled or easily pressed (like berries) to extract more fruit juice or oils, you can also add this step. Here are some of the best cordial flavors you can try!

You can watch tutorials of the recipes below. The videos may have alternate measurements or ingredients, which you can also follow.

1. Raspberry Cordial

Raspberries in trays and mason jars

Raspberry cordial is famously associated with the classic Anne of Green Gables, but it was revealed that she and her friend Diana actually consumed currant wine instead of raspberry cordial.

Nevertheless, we assure you that you won't get drunk with this recipe. Instead, you will enjoy a sweet and tart drink that's perfect for summer.

Ingredients

Here is a video showing how to make raspberry cordial:

2. Citrus Cordial (Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit, etc.)

Lemon, grapefruit, and orange cocktail

Citrus fruits are one of the easiest and most accessible fruits to use for a cordial. Each component of the fruit adds a complexity that makes a delightfully sweet and sour drink.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Citrus juice
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 ½ cups Water
  • Zest of citrus used
  • 1 tsp. Citric acid

Here’s a tutorial on how to make this citrus cordial:

3. Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial in bottle and glasses outdoors

Elderflower is one of the oldest flavors for cordial. Incorporating it into a drink is a fantastic way to use the very fragrant flowers that result in a refreshing and perfume-like beverage. It is also fun to pick the flowers usually from May to June when they are in season.

Ingredients

  • 25 Elderflower heads (stems removed)
  • 4 cups Sugar
  • 4 cups Water
  • 2 pcs Lemons (juice and zest)
  • 1 tsp. Citric acid
Watch this video to know how to make an elderflower cordial:

4. Blackcurrant Cordial

Cold Vodka with Blackcurrant Cordial

Another fruit that will make a great summer drink is blackcurrant. This dark fruit is rich in vitamins and antioxidants and produces a satisfying crimson color. Think drink also gives an intense and fruity flavor.

Ingredients

Here’s a video showing how to make blackcurrant cordial:

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5. Rhubarb Cordial

Rhubarb Infused Drink in glasses on a circular board

Rhubarb may be a vegetable but it is usually added in desserts, which is why it makes sense to make cordial out of it. This ingredient is quite tart, and adding sweetness to it provides a great contrast, and by extension, a fantastic drink.

Ingredients

Here’s a video showing how to create a rhubarb cordial:

6. Strawberry Cordial

Homemade Strawberry Mint Cocktail

There are many foods and drinks that utilize the amazing strawberry because of its sweetness, juiciness, and a bit of acidity. The addition of mint in this cordial recipe provides a great kick of menthol so you can cool down during hot days.

Ingredients

Here’s the strawberry cordial recipe video tutorial:

7. Peach Cordial

Peaches in simple syrup

We've heard of peach liqueur but if you want to enjoy this fruit in a drink without getting drunk, try this peach cordial recipe. It can be enjoyed on its own, or with the addition of sparkling water, or as a topping for desserts.

Ingredients

Here is an easy peach cordial recipe that you can follow:

8. Rosehip Cordial

Rosehip cordial in a jar surrounded with rosehips and flowers

Despite the name, rosehips taste nothing like roses. Instead, they are similar to citrus fruits so they are quite tangy and slightly sweet. They are also a great source of vitamin C. You can try the rosehip cordial with your morning or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

This video will show you how to make your rosehip cordial:

9. Cranberry Cordial

Cocktail in a wide glass with cranberry cordial

Cranberries are famous for being part of holiday meals, so this cordial is best served during the holiday season. But if you're craving a tart and red drink, you can also enjoy this drink anytime. This fruit complements well with spices like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon.

Ingredients

10. Lilac Cordial

Jar of lilac cordial and another jar of lilac flowers and sugar

Anyone can easily appreciate the pretty and pale violet lilac flowers. Aside from the delight of picking them in your garden, you can also transform them into a lovely drink. It has a great floral smell, is quite sweet, and has citrusy notes.

Ingredients

This video will show you how easy it is to make a lilac cordial:

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11. Passionfruit Cordial

Summer Passion Fruit cocktail with limes and ice

Anything passionfruit is a treat to have. It is tart, sweet, and smells amazing. It is also a unique fruit that is quite reminiscent of peach, mango, and pineapple. You can add this cordial to your cocktails.

Here is a video of the passionfruit cordial that’s so easy to make:

How to Use Cordial

Grapefruit Cocktail in Small Glasses

Did you know that cordials are not just for boozy drinks? They can also be used as a substitute for sweeteners, in teas, or even to make a holiday candy. But first, let's talk about its primary use.

As mentioned, a cordial is generally used as a mixer for countless cocktails. It adds a balance of sweetness, tartness, and color, like the berry cordial.

For a simple punch, dilute some of your cordial with ice-cold water for a refreshing summer drink. If you want it to be extra fancy, add some bubbles to it with your favorite sparkling water or tonic water. But, if you’re going to incorporate some alcohol, serve it with your best Proseccos!

Speaking of alcohol, some of the best liquors that go well with cordials include vodkagin, and bourbon/whiskeyElderflower cordials and lime cordials are perhaps the most used flavors in cocktails.

Cordials are so versatile that you can even use them for your favorite desserts. To counter a hot day, pour your cordial in an ice tray, put a stick, allow to freeze. Then, you have a delightful ice pop!

You can also drizzle your cordial on some vanilla ice cream, sorbet, or cake for added flavor complexity. Try to mix and match complementary and contrasting flavors.

Tips in Making Cordial

Lemons, a bowl of sugar, and elderflower

Whether it's your first time making cordials or you just want to improve your methods, we offer these helpful tips so you'll have an easier time the next time you make another excellent batch.

  • Different ratios for different ingredients

When making different-flavored cordials, you have to be mindful of the different ratios to follow depending on each fruit. For instance, you'll notice that the recipes above have different measurements of each ingredient.

This is because each fruit or flower has different levels of sweetness and texture. So, when the fruit is already sweet, you'll only need to use less sugar. On the other hand, when using sour fruit like citrus or flowers that generally don’t taste sweet, you'll rely on more sugar for taste and balance.

  • Using sweet fruits

Adding sugar to sweet fruit during heating can be tricky. Some recipes call for adding the sweetener in the water before heating, while others say that you should add it later - which sounds confusing!

Generally, after heating and straining your berries or other sweet fruits, always wait before adding the sugar to avoid ruining their natural pectin levels and end up making jam.

Furthermore, when making a big batch of berry cordial, you'll find that a large saucepan is more ideal to use because it prevents any overflows and wastes. It also allows you to muddle the big fruits without being uncomfortable or unstable properly.

  • Oleo saccharum method

Oleo Saccharum is another cocktail mixer that is similar to a cordial. It is basically a mixture of citrus oils and sugar, and it's a bit more syrupy. If you want your cordial to have a more pronounced citrus flavor, you can incorporate the method of making Oleo Saccharum in it.

Once you have muddled your citrus peels with sugar, you have to set them aside for 24 hours or more to release the maximum amount of the essential oils. Then, you just add this product to the rest of your cordial ingredients like juice and citric acid. You also don't need to add water.

  • Don't overboil

When heating your mixture, it's important to work in medium or low heat to prevent the sugar from caramelizing and giving your cordial a very thick consistency. Once this happens, it'll be hard to pour, especially when stored in the refrigerator before use.

  • Storing

Once you put in all of the efforts in making your delicious cordial, it needs to be in the best storage conditions. Keeping them in clean glass containers with airtight seals provide optimal stability and longevity, so it's important to sterilize your jar or storage bottle.

A nice sterile environment means less risk for spoilage which also makes long-lasting products. Your cordial can be best stored in a cool, dark place for one month or longer.

Ensure proper storage, or else it will start fermenting and make your drink less tasty! You can also keep it in a refrigerator or freeze it so it will last longer.

  • Role of citric acid

Citric acid is a natural preservative that can be found in citrus fruits. It looks a bit like white sugar, and you may find it at your local pharmacy or grocery store for an affordable price. This ingredient is optional, but it helps in making the cordial last longer.

It also makes the flavors pop by cutting the sweetness of the cordial a bit and balances it out with a delightful tartness. You may also use tartaric acid, which essentially does the same thing as citric acid.

The main difference is that citric acid is found in citrus fruits, while tartaric acid is found in grapes and wines. The latter also has a stronger and sharper taste than the former.

  • Adding spices and herbs

Fruits go incredibly well with a lot of spices. Once you have tried the cordial with a single fruit flavor, you can experiment by adding spices and herbs like cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, mint, basil, and more. Try to match the flavor of the spice with the fruit.

  • Adjust the ingredients to your liking

People have different preferences and palates. If you think that cordial recipes need to be modified to adjust to your liking, go ahead. Add sugar if you want more sweetness and citrus juice for sourness. If you want a mild version, then lessen the amount of these ingredients.

  • Use fresh and clean ingredients

It's easy to get the most out of your fruit juice by using fresh fruits. Just be sure you're using citrus fruits with no wax. A helpful trick is pouring hot water, and it will do wonders for removing any wax on its own!

If you want to go further, you may also use a vegetable brush and clean the citrus under running water. Meanwhile, when using flowers, make sure to clean them properly with water to get rid of the bugs and residual dirt.

  • Sugar to use

One would typically use white or granulated sugar in making a homemade cordial. But using brown sugar is also good as it adds a lovely caramel or toffee flavor to your cordial for more depth. It also gives the cordial a deep golden color.

Conclusion

If you’ve been looking for a way to make your drinks and dishes stand out with depth, and flavor, take time to learn how to make cordial!

We hope this tutorial has helped answer some questions about how it is made, its many uses in culinary applications, and cocktail recipes that use cordial. There are many possibilities in flavor combinations that you can try to amp up your drinks. Now go ahead and give it a try!

Did you find this tutorial helpful? We'll be happy to hear your thoughts and recommended recipes in the comments below.

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  • Advanced Mixology on

    Hi Bam,

    If you opt to add spices like cinnamon, clove, or ginger, or herbs like mint, or rosemary in your lemon cordial, you can add it once the water is boiling and the sugar is dissolved.

    During this time, you add the fruit juice and the citric acid, then you can drop in your spices or herbs. Let the mixture boil one more time and remove from the heat. When bottling, you can strain the rinds along with the spices. But you can also include them in the bottles overnight so they will infuse the cordial more. We hope this helps!

  • Bam on

    If I were to add cinnamon or another spice to a lemon cordial for example, at what point in the process would the spice be added?


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