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Bottling Up Summer in an Elderflower Cordial

green champagne bottle lays on towel on a marble counter surrounded by elderflowers

Learn how to make your own batch of elderflower cordial with this easy recipe! Perfect to add to sparkling water or mix into a cocktail to savor the sweetness of summer.

green champagne bottle lays on towel on a marble counter surrounded by elderflowers

I won’t lie, I like fancy.

You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I love sparkles and luxury and frou-frou- the things that add a little extraordinary to the everyday. But as someone who tries to live life frugally and spends most of her time digging in the garden or tromping through woods or fields, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for fancy.

Occasionally I’ll be fancy when I go out, wearing fancy clothes or do up fancy makeup up, but it’s not very often. Instead, I often turn to food to fix my fancy cravings. It’s not an everyday thing, but I’ll indulge in buying fancy ingredients like expensive cheeses or order foie gras when out.

Fancy allows you to escape the present moment, the reality, practicalities, and pretend you’re someone else in a different life, if just for a moment in time. I have no qualms with my reality, and I love my life, but as a dreamer, it’s fun to dream.

That’s why I love fancy.

And to me, nothing screams fancy like cordial.

Especially, elderflower cordial.

looking down into glass filled with elderflower cordial and ice cubes

It’s like suddenly I’m hosting a garden party for one in my backyard. The flowers are all perfectly deadheaded and the plants are in rows, and the grounds are swept and clean and I lounge around in flowy silk dresses. Instead of my reality. An overgrown and tangled garden, where the dog and the cat fight over a half-dead rat that I’ll have to hit with a shovel in a few minutes then dig a hole to bury so it doesn’t rot in the trash can.

We all need some fancy in our lives from time to time. 

But, unlike some of the other fancy things I love that are expensive or take a long time or are quite complicated to make, elderflower cordial is easy. Super easy. The hardest part is going to be foraging for the elderflowers, which you can learn how to do here.

Cocktail glass filled with elderflower cordial and ice cubes sitting on a marble counter.

Elderflower Cordial Technicalities:

Technically, a cordial an alcoholic drink, made by infusing sugar, herbs, fruit, nuts and/or spices in an alcohol, such as a whiskey or rum, and then. This, or any of the other elderflower cordial recipes out there, is not technically cordials. But, by definition, cordial means “tending to revive, cheer, or invigorate” (Merriam Webster dictionary). Which is a perfect way to describe this delicious potion, and it’s used the same way a traditional cordial would be- mixed in with soda, juices or sparkling water, but they can be drunk on their own, over ice.

So we will continue to be fancy and continue to call it cordial.

looking down into a cocktail glass filled with elderflower cordial and ice cubes

Reminders for Working with Elderflower:

The blooms are perfectly edible, but the leaves and stems are mildly toxic, so you want to remove as much of the stems as possible. A few of the tiny ones up in the flower clusters won’t hurt you, but pick off as much as you can. I’ve seen some blog posts with beautiful photography of making elderflower cordial, they have large clumps of leaves in the jar. Don’t do this.

Other than that, there doesn’t appear to be any hard rules when making cordial.

bowl filled with elderflower blossoms picked off the stems, which rest next to the bowl

Let’s make some elderflower cordial, shall we?

I’ve seen some sources that use a 1-1 ratio of water to sugar. Some recipes use a 1-2 ratio of water to sugar (enter wide-eyed emoticon here), or use citric acid instead of lemons, or they use both.

I cringe at the amount of sugar some of the recipes out there use, so I only use a half part sugar to 1 part water. If that still seems like to much sugar for you, you may want to consider making an infused alcohol instead of a cordial to take advantage of the elderflower. A cordial is essentially a flavored simple syrup, so if you avoid sugar, this isn’t the drink for you. But, as you can see from all the variants above, feel free to play around with it and make it your own!

looking into a glass jar, filled with flowers

large glass jar with cloth draped over it, on counter with elderflower cordial

Strainer filled with elderflowers rests on a bowl.

Elderflower Cordial

Ingredients

  • I’ve listed the recipe by both quantities that I used, but also ratios in case you want to scale up or down.
    By Measurements:
  • About 4 cups loosely packed elderflowers (from about 10 clusters the size of an open-hand)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ c lemon juice
  • 4 T lemon zest
    By ratio:
  • 1 part elderflower
  • 1 part sugar
  • 2 parts water
  • 1 lemon per 1 part flower (ex: 2 cups of flowers would use 2 lemons. And FYI: 1 lemon has about about 2 T juice, and 1 T of zest)

Instructions

  • Combine the water and the sugar in a pot over medium heat and stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
  • While waiting, work on processing your elderflowers. Remove as many of the stems as possible, along with any bugs, and place in a bowl or a large jar with the lemon juice and the zest.
  • Pour the sugar water over the flowers. Tightly cover the container with a tea towel or cheesecloth, and set aside to steep.
  • Let the elderflower mixture ferment on the counter for 1-4 days. Mine took about 30 hours in my 75-80 degree house. It will depend on how warm your house is. I tasted mine after 1 days, and it just tasted like simple syrup. You want it to have a tangier, more complex taste than just sugar water. On the second day, I could SMELL the fragrance of the blooms and sugar, which is how I knew it was ready.
  • Strain your cordial, then transfer to clean bottles or jars. I re-use washed and sterilized champagne bottles that had the wire swing top enclosure)
  • Enjoy your new cordial by adding 1 to 3 tablespoons of the syrup to water or seltzer, to a glass of sparkling wine, to a couple shots of vodka or gin, or a splash into anything that could use a bit of sunshine and sweetness!

Notes

The first time I made this, it appeared to continue to ferment in the bottle. When I opened it, I lost all of it down the sink because it fizzed and spilled over. I have not had that issue with my current batch. However, in the case your cordial continues to ferment, you may want to ‘burp’ your bottles or containers every few days, and you might want to also open any bottles over a bowl, just in case!

https://quartermoonliving.com/elderflower-cordial/

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glass with ice and elderflower cordial on marble table, with text overlay "elderflower cordial"

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