Introduction: Elderflower Cordial

Picture of Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial has a sweet, floral, refreshing taste which is one of my favourite summer drinks. It's a non-alcoholic concentrated syrup that can be mixed with sparkling water or soda water and ice to enjoy in the heat.

From mid-June to mid-July you can't turn the corner in the area where I live without seeing an elder tree in flower.

At this time of year the fist sized bunches of tiny white elderflowers make a great cordial which is really tasty with sparkling water, ice and a slice of lemon. Be sure to leave some flowers on the tree though as come Autumn the berries make a great wine!

Thanks to jonnybo1 for his help picking the flowers, steveastrouk for the tree, gmjhowe for help with photography and, mixing and lizzyastro for help bottling!

Step 1: Ingredients and Materials

Picture of Ingredients and Materials

  • 32 elderflower heads
  • 1kg sugar
  • 55g citric acid
  • 4 washed, unwaxed lemons
  • 1.5 litres boiling water

Tools & Materials:
  • 1 large pan
  • 1 jelly bag (or scrap of fine muslin)
  • several sealable bottles

Step 2: Obtaining Elderflowers

Picture of Obtaining Elderflowers

You'll need 32 elderflower heads.

Of course, the best method is to go out and pick them. Pick any within reach from the elder tree until you have all that you need.

Our elder tree at work however had to come down. It was starting to push a fence down and we wanted to heighten the wall as well. So I cut it down then found a small boy to forage through it picking off the heads while I finished off the tree.

If you leave picking the flowers too late like I almost did, try heading somewhere cooler (like up a hill or out of the town) to find some elder trees still in flower.

Step 3: Dissolve the Sugar

Picture of Dissolve the Sugar

Pour 1.5L of boiling water over the kilo of sugar in a large pan.

Stir until it has dissolved.

Allow the sugar syrup to cool before adding anything else.

Step 4: Lemons

Picture of Lemons

Zest all four lemons then cut into thick slices.

Add to the cooled sugar syrup.

Step 5: Citric Acid

Picture of Citric Acid

Measure out 55g of citric acid granules and add to the pan. Stir until they've dissolved.

The citric acid lowers the pH of the cordial and keeps bugs at bay. It also enhances the lemonie flavour.

Step 6: Steep

Picture of Steep

Toss in the elderflower heads and smoosh around until they're under the water line.

Cover with a clean tea towel and store in a cool place to steep for 24-48 hours.

Step 7: Sterilise

Sterilise the bottles in a hot oven. If reusing them, rinse well first. Mine were new so I just ovened them for 10 minutes at 150ºC.

To sterilise the lids, boil them for a few minutes.

Step 8: Bottle

Picture of Bottle

Having steeped for 48 hours the cordial should now be ready. Remove the bottles from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle them. Fill the bottles any way you please, lab glassware not essential.

Cap immediately.

Step 9: Serve

Picture of Serve

Serve in a glass with ice and lemon, diluted with sparkling water to taste.


Kryptonite (author)2010-07-17

Wikipedia says the flowers contain cyanide, I'm assuming this isn't an issue, but I'm curious as to why?

pschofield2 (author)Kryptonite2014-08-10

the berrys contain cyanide but the stalks of the plants contain 5 times as much and its there to give the birds who eat them the squirts so the berrys seeds get spead quicker lol

Jayefuu (author)Kryptonite2010-07-17

So do apple pips but I still eat those ^.^

Kryptonite (author)Jayefuu2010-07-17

I quite like the taste of apricot kernels, which also contain cyanide. :D

Kiteman (author)Kryptonite2010-07-18

Being closely related to almonds.

Kryptonite (author)Kiteman2010-07-19

Mmm... yummy poison.

and of course alcohol is a poison

Is it ?

Jayefuu (author)jonnybo1112012-10-31

The BEST kind of poison.

Kinnishian (author)Kryptonite2010-07-18

All poisons are by definition toxic in relatively small amounts (you know, it just doesn't kill the russian dissent quietly enough otherwise), but a number of them are actually very healthy in small small amounts. Cyanide as one of them, is essential for human life (i assume many animals). I can't remember precisely what kind of basic molecules require it [sorry :/]. In the body, is usually bonded strongly as part of a bigger molecule, so it doesn't go off by itself to damage things. The bigger issue is accumulating poisons, like heavy metals, that your body doesn't filter very well.

Kryptonite (author)Kinnishian2010-07-19

Phew, I'm safe!

Except for that lead paint I use...

Kinnishian (author)Kryptonite2010-07-19

Mmm...Paint flakes. Great for that extra crunch on top of yogurt.

Azerial (author)Kinnishian2010-07-19

Reminds me of a strange disorder called Pica where one has an abnormal appetite for strange things...

Kryptonite (author)Azerial2010-07-20


ArisenProdigy (author)Kryptonite2010-07-21

White Castle.

Marky388 (author)2011-06-16

Being as it is the time of year for the flowers, and the fact that I am unable to find any trees in my local area (west Cumbria), would you be willing to make and sell some to me? I have tasted it before and loved it.

XOIIO (author)2010-07-19

So this naturally becomes alcoholic? Is there a way to make it non-alcoholic.

That Inventor Dude (author)XOIIO2010-09-01

it can become alcoholic without yeast but it does need more time. however if left too long it will mold.

Jayefuu (author)XOIIO2010-07-20

No, no alcohol. There's no yeast in it so it doesn't ferment. It has enough citric acid in it to stay as it is for through the winter.

XOIIO (author)Jayefuu2010-07-20

Oh, I thought cordials were always alcoholic.

ArisenProdigy (author)XOIIO2010-07-21 "Squash (also commonly known as cordial [before mixed with water]) is a sweetened or unsweetened fruit-based concentrate that is mixed with a liquid, most commonly water or seltzer, before drinking. It is also the name of the resulting drink." However, I enjoy the idea of adding some yeast to this and fermenting it into a wine. Perhaps I'll save some flowers and wait for the berries and make that into a wine :)

930913 (author)2010-07-23

How much does this make- how would need to cut it to make a sample?

Jayefuu (author)9309132010-07-26

This made just over 2L. You could cut the recipe in 4 without any problems I should think though.

katesisco (author)2010-07-20

so curious looked up elder in wiki; flowers & berries edible, all else poison. Tame elders came with colonists, wild here. Can use to make alcohol drink by add vodka & fermemt. Both flowers & berries

kyrilex (author)2010-07-19

Looks tasty, but it isn't a cordial. A cordial is herb/fruit/spices, or whatever, blended with distilled spiced wine (aka brandy). A liqueur is a blend of herb/fruit /spices/whatever blended with other distilled liquors, such as vodka. If fruit is used, it's also called a schnapps. An oxymel would be a more fitting term, being a brewed mixture consisting of herbs or spices and historically used for medicinal purposes. Some cordials were historically used for medicinal purposes as well, but not frequently. I'll definitely have to try it, it looks lovely!

Jayefuu (author)kyrilex2010-07-20

Americans might call it a syrup. In the UK it's a cordial, "an extremely sweet non-alcoholic fruit flavoured drink concentrate that is diluted with water to taste, popular in the UK, Australia and New Zealand".

katesisco (author)2010-07-18

I am already saving Grolsch bottles. Looked in Wiki for helianthus tuberosum aka Jerusalem Artichoke, and believe it or not there is a liquor made from the edible potato-like root. Has to ferment so I wonder if fermentation is the key here as in elderberry wine?

Jayefuu (author)katesisco2010-07-18

You need the berries for elderberry wine. In a few months they'll be ready and I can smoosh them up, add sugar, water, yeast and some other stuff and away it goes! (subscribe and robot will send you a message when I publish the elderberry wine ible)

jtbarclay (author)2010-07-18

For an alcoholic cordial, you could try replacing the water with vodka, and obviously skip the boiling step. You might not be able to dissolve the entire amount of sugar in the recipe, so that might need to be altered. And without boiling it's going to take a bit longer for the flavors to meld so you'd want to let it sit for at least a couple weeks, but you could try a little bit every day until you're happy with it.

Jayefuu (author)jtbarclay2010-07-18

It's a cordial.... you could just add a shot of vodka when you dilute it from the bottle. It'd be no different to using juice as a mixer.

caarntedd (author)2010-07-18

Are you telling me you've used perfectly good beer bottles to hold a non-beer beverage?

hannahelastic (author)2010-07-18

Oooooh! I love elder tea and/or juice, it's magical. You can also dry the flowers and in the middle of winter (which are cold and long here) you can make a cup of warm tea and it tastes like summer.

Kiteman (author)2010-07-17

When you were making this, it smelled mainly of lemons (as did the entire building). What was the finished flavour like?

Jayefuu (author)Kiteman2010-07-18

It tasted quite strongly of elderflower and a lot less like lemons. I was a bit worried it would just be a lemon cordial but it turned out well.

Kiteman (author)Jayefuu2010-07-18


Joe Martin (author)2010-07-16

Absolutely wonderful! I'll have to do this next year as we have elderflower aplenty here!

Jayefuu (author)Joe Martin2010-07-17

All yours done flowering? I wish I'd managed to get this published a week earlier.

Joe Martin (author)Jayefuu2010-07-17

Pretty much, I can have a check next time I'm out at the farm to see if there's any about! I wouldn't want to miss out :)

corey11 (author)2010-07-15

This may be a stupid question and orgive me if it is, does this contain alchohol?

Jayefuu (author)corey112010-07-15

Nope, no alcohol. Just a syrup to flavour water. If you want something boozy try the elderflower champagne from the related bar :D

corey11 (author)Jayefuu2010-07-16

Thank you. Haha, well, I'm 14 so that would be a strong no thankyou on that one for me though. I was wondering because this looks really good, and usually when you have enough sugar and leave it on the stove too long it will ferment. But I'm aware, you need the aid of yeast (i'm aware of the brewing process.)But thank you again for your reply

scoochmaroo (author)2010-07-15

Yay! We served a special cocktail for our engagement party that used elderflower liquer. And when we had a celebration in Bristol, we had elderflower cordial! I wish I could get my hands on some elderflower. . . hrm. I love that you guys all worked together on this. Very fun to see!

Jayefuu (author)scoochmaroo2010-07-15

Thanks :) I did it a couple of weekends when everyone came over for the UK ibles meetup. Only just had a chance to publish. Do you not get elder in your climate? Can't wait for autumn now to make the wine :D

lizzyastro (author)Jayefuu2010-07-16

You'll have to find another tree for the elderberries :-p The cordial is really good - a happy reminder of summer now that the weather has turned back to grey, windy and wet.

laxap (author)2010-07-15

Elderflower is (not counting the small fern growing in walls) my fav syrup.

Elderflower is also great in champaign.

Jayefuu (author)laxap2010-07-15

Yeh :D Gmjhowe helped me make this then went home and made elderflower champagne .

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