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What Is A Cordial?

cordial intro

summer elderberry cordial

“Cordials are a fruit or herbal flavored syrup that you add to cold or hot water for a drink (and are very popular in England, frequently called ‘fruit squash’). I like cordials because they’re easy to make, keep for a long time, and you can be really creative. To use cordial, just add a finger or two of the cordial to a glass and top with hot or cold water. They are also brilliant for making cocktails in place of simple syrup.”

-so writes Amanda of, who is living presently in England.

That is the way many Europeans enjoy the drink they call a “cordial”, for most Americans, cordials have a little more “spirit” than that.

Cordials are also alcoholic distillations which later evolved into what we now know as “liqueurs”. Some very old recipes for well known liqueurs were what was referred to as a “cordial”. Alcohol fermentation was once a way to preserve fruits and juices, and was used medicinally. Less so, now.

Can you make cordials? The answer is “yes” to both types of drink, non-alcoholic and the more spirited type.

In this post the sundry facts and interesting trivia of cordials iw presented along with some flavorful and historical recipes to make your own summer refreshments.

In The UK

Cordials are non-alcoholic fruit or herb essence drinks. Pour over ice in a tall glass for summer refreshment


Elderflower cordial – make yourself a refreshing European-style beverage

cordial bottles

Belvoir Fruit Farms has a lovely website to showcase their cordials.

Belvoir Elderflower Cordial. Case of 6x500ml- Fast
Belvoir Elderflower Cordial

Cordials are popular enough that you can find commercially bottled elderflower water, or a few other selections of popular flavors. Sold in a case of 6.

Making Cordial in Your Kitchen

making cordial

Cordials from Your Kitchen: Easy, Elegant Liqueurs You Can Make & Give
Belvoir Elderflower Cordial. Case of 6x500ml- Fast

Learn to make your own at home, using a book full of recipes.

How to Make Elderflower Cordial – Quite Properly!

Making Your Own Cordials? – Use a bottles

Libbey 33.8 Oz Water Bottle w/ Wire Bail Lid 684402
Libbey 33.8 Oz Water Bottle w/ Wire Bail Lid 684402




Anne Of Green Gables made Cordials Famous

..for generations of girls

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables …and the raspberry cordial

“I can just imagine myself sitting down at the head of the table and pouring out the tea,” said Anne, shutting her eyes ecstatically. “And asking Diana if she takes sugar! I know she doesn’t but of course I’ll ask her just as if I didn’t know. And then pressing her to take another piece of fruit cake and another helping of preserves. Oh, Marilla, it’s a wonderful sensation just to think of it. Can I take her into the spare room to lay off her hat when she comes? And then into the parlor to sit?”

“No. The sitting room will do for you and your company. But there’s a bottle half full of raspberry cordial that was left over from the church social the other night. It’s on the second shelf of the sitting-room closet and you and Diana can have it if you like, and a cooky to eat with it along in the afternoon …” –L.M. Montgomery

What happened afterward is all the result of Anne confusing the non alcoholic cordial and the “home remedy” that Marilla had on hand. Edwardian mishaps for Anne of Green Gables, yet again!

Non-alcoholic Cordial – Rose’s Cordial Mixer Grenadine

Favored by the English, this is also known in the USA as a mixer for flavoring mixed drinks. Grenadine is a red colored cordial whose name comes from the French word for pomegranate.

Rose's Grenadine, 1 L bottles (Pack of 12)
Rose’s Grenadine, 1 L bottles (Pack of 12) Made with real pomegranate and cherry juices, Rose’s Grenadine being one of the better and most popular of the Grenadine syrups, or cordials.

Health Claims for Cordials


Can raspberry cordial kill stomach bugs in contaminated water?

A: Yes. Raspberry and blackcurrant cordials can kill bacteria that cause some stomach bugs.

“Microbiologist Dr Heather Cavanagh, whose research found some raspberry juice and blackcurrant juice cordials can kill at least 12 different types of nasty bacteria responsible for stomach bugs, including E. Coli and several strains of salmonella.” “Cordials that had the best antibacterial properties contained at least 35 per cent raspberry or blackcurrant juice, and worked when diluted down to one part cordial in 10 parts water.”

Get Yourself Some Free Labels

Download a PDF of a pink label printed for your own cordials. Or festive fruit drink labels,here.

What you may not have known about these old fashioned drinks

by Darren Larson
by Darren Larson

History of cordials

“Most cordials were of European origin, first produced in Italian apothecaries during the Renaissance where the art of distilling was refined during the fifteenth and 16th centuries.” (Wikipedia)

A cordial set of crystal bottles and goblets


“Rosa Solis or Rosolio, probably originating in Renaissance Turin was derived from the carnivorous sundew plant.”

“Royal Usquebaugh (an Irish cordial) was a spicy concoction containing flecks of gold leaf thought to capture the sun’s golden radiance. It was usually flavoured with aniseed, liquorice and saffron and sweetened with fruit sugar extracted from figs and raisins”

“Many cordials were also considered aphrodisiacs”

Cordials were often sold in apothecary bottles by chemists.

Well Known (or not!) Alcoholic Cordials

Set Of Four (4) - Romanian Crystal Barware - Cobalt Blue Swirl/Stained Glass Pattern - Milano Design - 4 Oz Cordial Glasses
Set Of Four (4) – Romanian Crystal Barware – Cobalt Blue Swirl/Stained Glass Pattern – Milano Design – 4 Oz Cordial Glasses

Cobalt Blue Swirl/Stained Glass Pattern. Beautiful Romanian glass.
St.Germain- an elderflower cordial


Grand Marnier -orange flavored liqueur

Amaretto Di Sarrono -almond-flavored cordial

Chambord -black raspberry liqueur

Frangelico -hazelnut flavored liqueur

Cointreau -orange flavored liqueur

Bénédictine -secret blend of 27 herbs and spices

Drambuie -heather honey and flavored with herbs

Jagermeister -a German bitter liqueur that is a complex blend of 56 herbs, fruits and spices.

Cordial Dictionary Facts

Today, little differentiation is made between a cordial and a liqueur. Hardly more than a semantic distinction and the terms are now pretty much interchangeable.

Generics are liqueurs of a particular type that can be made by any producer.

Crème de Cacao or Curaςao

Proprietaries are liqueurs with trademarked names, made according to a specific formula.

Kahlua, Grand Marnier

Bitters are the modern-day descendants of medieval medical potions and are marketed as having at least some vaguely therapeutic value as stomach settlers or hangover cures. They tend to be flavored with herbs, roots, and botanicals, contain lower quantities of fruit and sugar than liqueurs, and have astringent notes in the palate.

Elderberries and Their Flowers

They come from the same plant, Sambucus nigra, but render different flavor and color to a cordial made with them.


Amanda’s Elderberry Cordial


by Becka York

by Becka York

Demerara sugar is an unrefined sugar with a large grain and a pale to golden yellow color; you can buy it at many health food and grocery stores.

  • 1.5 lbs elderberries
  • Demarara sugar
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Lemon
  1. 1.In a saucepan, cover the elderberries in water (just enough to cover them). Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. The berries will become very soft and the liquid will be dark red.Strain out the berries, reserving the juice.
  2. 2.Measure the amount of juice. Pour juice back into empty saucepan. For each 2 cups of juice, add 2 cups of demarara sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, and the juice from 1/2 lemon.
  3. 3.Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 15 minutes, stirring regularly (to ensure all the sugar is dissolved). Remove cinnamon sticks. Let cool while you prepare the bottles.
  4. 4. Fill prepared clean bottles with cordial, cap, and store in the fridge. Will keep for at least 6 months.
  5. 5.Serve a few fingers of cordial with hot water (and a splash of brandy)


Mikasa Cheers Cordial Glasses, Set of 6

A cordial water of Sir Walter Raleigh – Circa 1655

From Carol Hanson comes this rendition of a cordial recipe from berries for SCA events.

  • 12 oz. frozen blackberries
  • 12 oz. frozen raspberries
  • 16 oz. frozen strawberries
  • 1 quart 80-proof brandy
  • simple syrup: 2 c. white granulated sugar to 1 c. water
  1. The frozen fruits are put in a glass jar and covered with brandy, then left for 5 days and stirred each day. The solid material should be strained out and squeezed through cheesecloth and the liquid then poured through a fine nylon coffee filter.
  2. A simple sugar syrup is added to the proportions of 1 cup of syrup to 2 cups of liquor (there was about 4-1/2 c. and added 2-1/4 c. of syrup).
  3. The result tastes the same as similar berry cordials made over a longer time: very smooth and very good.

Sour Cherry Cordial – European Refreshment

After you make the cherry syrup:

1 teaspoon of sour cherry syrup

5 ounces of ice water

ice cubes

Prepare your cordial by adding the syrup to the water and stir. Add ice.

  • 2 3/4 pounds of fresh sour cherries
  • 7 1/2 cups of granulated sugar 7/8 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  1. Wash the cherries well. Remove stems and pits carefully, keeping cherries intact. In a wide pot, lay the cherries in layers, covering each layer with sugar, until all the cherries and all the sugar have been used. Set aside for 3 hours.
  2. Add the water to the pot and bring the cherries and sugar to a boil over high heat. Skim off foam as it rises to the top with a slotted spoon. When the syrup thickens, add the lemon juice and allow to boil for another few seconds. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. When thoroughly cooled, place in airtight glass jars to store.

Cordial Recipe List


Liqueur or Cordial?

Only liqueurs have alcohol by definition. Cordials are sometimes alcohol-free and may enjoyed alone or used as a mixer.

Make Your Own Alcoholic Liqueurs