Citrusy Elderflower Cordial Recipe

If you've never made a cordial, much less an elderflower cordial, you may wonder what, exactly, you're making ... and why. "Another name for cordial is squash. It's essentially just a concentrated sugary syrup that is flavored with fruits, spices, or plants that you add water to before drinking," explains recipe developer Jennine Bryant. "It's a great way to enjoy a flavored drink that you can make at home, and bottles of cordial tend to last much longer than, say, an opened bottle of cola, because you just use a little bit at a time." 

So basically, it's a tasty, cost-effective way to enjoy a sweet drink ... and it's a great way to add flavor to cocktails, too. And while there are lots of ways to make a cordial, this elderflower version is something special. "I love elderflower cordial; it's such a unique flavor. It's refreshing and light, slightly floral and botanical, but there is also a champagne-like richness to it. I've heard it likened to lychee or pear, but there is also a musky accent to it. Citrus flavors really complement elderflower," Bryant says.

If you're ready to try your hand at making a homemade cordial, go ahead and gather your supplies. The recipe only takes about 20 minutes of hands-on work, but there's also a 24-hour waiting period for the elderflower to infuse into the liquid. So allow yourself a day to have the first sip of this refreshing drink-sweetener. 

Gather the ingredients for citrusy elderflower cordial

You'll only need a few ingredients to make your elderflower cordial. First, you'll need elderflowers. If you happen to have elderberry bushes growing in your area, you can probably forage these on your own, which is what Bryant does in the U.K. "I'm sure you can buy it from certain shops, but it's free and simple to forage for it. I would recommend just Googling or checking in a foraging guidebook what exactly to look for before going out and collecting some," she suggests. 

In addition to the 24 elderflower heads, you'll also need water, granulated sugar, citric acid, a lemon, and a lime. It's this last ingredient that Bryant says makes her elderflower cordial recipe special. "Normally elderflower cordial is made exclusively with lemons, but I added a lime this time to cut through some of the sweetness and add a little tangy freshness," she says.

Prep the fruit and soak the elderflower

To get started, boil your water and zest your lemon and lime into strips, then set them aside. Be sure to save the fruit — you'll be using the juice and the peels separately. 

Shake out the elderflower heads to make sure they're bug-free, then trim off the green stalks. Place the flowers in a large bowl (or two medium-sized bowls, if you don't have enough room), and pour the boiling water over the top.

Add the citrus peels and let the flavors infuse

Add the citrus peels to the bowl, submerging them in the water with the elderflower heads. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it aside to allow the flavors to infuse the water for 24 hours. "It doesn't have to be exactly 24 hours. It's fine if it's a few hours less or more; it just needs a sufficient amount of time for the flavor to infuse into the water so the drink really packs a punch," Bryant explains. 

Strain the liquid

Once the water has been infused with the elderflower and citrus peels, go ahead and remove the flower heads and peels from the liquid. Line a colander with cheesecloth and position it on top of a clean bowl. Pour the infused liquid through the colander to remove any leftover particles from the drink. 

Go ahead and juice your lemon and lime, squeezing the juice into a small bowl.

Add the sugar and citrus juices to make the cordial

Transfer the infused liquid to a saucepan and place it on the stove, turning the heat to medium. Add the sugar, lemon and lime juice, and citric acid to the pot. Bring it all to a boil and let the cordial cook for 2 minutes before turning off the heat. 

Bottle and store the cordial

The cordial is now prepared, but you need to let it cool completely before bottling or using it. Once it's cool, transfer the liquid into sealable drinking bottles and store them in the fridge. When you want an elderflower-flavored drink, simply pull out a bottle and mix it with cold sparkling water and slices of lemon. "The cordial-to-sparkling water ratio is really to personal taste. As a guide, I would say something around 1 part cordial to 5 to 6 parts sparkling water. It also tastes great with white wine for a summery drink," Bryant suggests. A single batch of cordial can be stored in the fridge for up to a month. 

Citrusy Elderflower Cordial Recipe
5 from 32 ratings
Cordial is essentially a concentrated sugary syrup flavored with fruits, spices, or plants. This simple elderflower version makes for a lovely summer sip.
Prep Time
Cook Time
elderflower cordial with sparkling water
Total time: 24 hours, 20 minutes
  • 24 elderflower heads
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons citric acid
  1. Shake out the elderflower heads to make sure that all bugs are removed and then trim the green stalks, before placing them in a large bowl (or two medium bowls).
  2. Zest the lemon and lime into large strips, reserving the fruit itself for later.
  3. Boil the water and pour into the bowl(s), over the elderflower heads.
  4. Immediately add the zest of both the lemon and the lime to the bowl with the elderflower heads.
  5. Cover with a tea towel and allow the elderflower to infuse for 24 hours.
  6. After the infusing time, remove the elderflower heads from the bowl. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place this over a clean bowl. Pour the liquid from the bowl though the colander to remove all the particles left over in the infusion.
  7. Place the liquid in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, the juice from the lemon and the lime, and the citric acid. Bring to a boil, then let the cordial boil for 2 minutes before turning off the heat. Allow it to cool completely before bottling in clean drinking bottles.
  8. Store the elderflower cordial in the fridge for up to 1 month and serve with chilled sparkling water and slices of lemon.
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