Fresh Elderflower Cordial Recipe

It's mid-June and the elderflowers are coming to an end. I actually thought the flowers were finished in this part of the country until Andy came home with a bag on Saturday and said 'a present for you'. It was another dozen freshly picked flowers. So I made Elderflower Cordial.

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

When we started making Elderflower Cordial years ago when we lived in Wendover, we were the only people we knew who made it. We used to put bottles of it outside our cottage with an honesty box, and they always sold within hours. Now it is far more widely available to buy in the shops, but there really isn't any that tastes quite as good as homemade.

Mixed with sparkling water and ice, it really is the most lovely drink.

Elderflower cordial with sparkling water

The Joy of Elderflower Season

The elder (Sambucus nigra) is an ancient plant, native to the UK. The smell of the flowers is very distinctive, and they hang in the hedgerows through May and June and positively sparkle in the sun. Some of them are as large as dinner plates.

We have made Elderflower Lemon Curd, Elderflower Vinegar, Elderflower Gin, Elderflower Mead and, of course, Elderflower Champagne. I've even made an Elderflower skin tonic which I will share another time.

When you are making all things elderflower in your kitchen, the beautiful fragrance permeates your house. It is a pretty short season and can be over before you know it. We try to make at least one Elderflowery (word?) thing every year.

Elderflower cordial in bucket

Removing the Stems from the Elderflowers 

As with all things Elderflower, I advise removing the thick stems from the flowers and as many of the little stems as you can be bothered to remove. The more stem left in whatever you're making, the greener the final result will be. And the greener it is, the more bitter it may become.

This cordial isn't like some of the other recipes I've talked about, because the flowers only sit in the bucket for 1-2 days which probably isn't enough time for the stems to make your cordial bitter. But I remove the stems anyway. You can either do it with your fingers (which promptly get covered in elderflower pollen) or a fork to pluck them off into a bucket.

Also remember to shake them well to remove any tiny insects which came home with your elderflowers.

Uses for Elderflower Cordial

The traditional way to enjoy it is to dilute with water, still or sparkling, in a glass with a slice of lemon.  Elderflower cordial is also lovely in cakes and drizzled over ice cream. 

It is also a good cheat's way to enjoy an Elderflower Gin and tonic without having to make the elderflower gin infusion. Simply add a dash of cordial to your gin and tonic!


Elderflower Cordial Recipe

Makes about 2 litres.


About 12-15 elderflower heads

1kg sugar

50g citric acid

2 lemons, preferably unwaxed

1 litre of boiling water

Half a lemon, sliced

Half an orange, sliced


Remove the flowers from the stems either with your fingers or the prongs of a fork. Compost the stems.

Remove the zest from the lemons (I use a potato peeler so it comes off in large strips), and juice them.

Pour the 1kg sugar into a clean, food grade bucket. Pour the boiling water over it, stir well with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the citric acid, lemon zest, orange and lemon slices, lemon juice and elderflowers. Loosely cover with a lid.

Leave to infuse for 1-2 days, mixing again with a wooden spoon in the morning and at night.

Sterilise cordial bottles using cleaner/steriliser.

Strain the cordial through muslin in a sieve into the sterile bottles. 

Refrigerate straight away. Your cordial is ready to use immediately, and this recipe will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

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