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Elderflower cordial recipe

Served over ice, elderflower cordial is the essence of English summer. This easy recipe makes enough for four standard (750ml) wine bottles but is simple to scale up, and can be used to make sorbet, ice cream, fruit jellies and other summer delights.  The cordial can be kept for four to six weeks in the fridge or for a whole year in the freezer, but if you want to store it for longer on the shelf it can be preserved using camden tablets.

elderflowers and lemons infusing into water, imageFor a lightly alcoholic elderflower drink, try making elderflower champagne – a seasonal highlight for many homesteaders.


For 3L (just over five pints) of elderflower cordial, you will need 30 heads of elder flowers, 2kg (4lb 6oz) of sugar, 2 lemons and 50g (1¾ oz) citric acid, which you can get from most pharmacies and homebrew supply shops. You will also need a large plastic bowl or fermentation bucket, a lid or clean tea towel (dish towel) to cover it, and some screw-top bottles to put the cordial in.

How to make elderflower cordial

  1. Pick thirty young flower heads, where the flowers are open but have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. You’ll get pollen on you, but don’t worry – it doesn’t stain. Use the flowers promptly or the aroma will change and become unpleasant.
  2. Put the elderflower heads into the large plastic bowl or bucket, along with the sugar and citric acid. Cut the two lemons in half, juice them, and then throw both the juice and the skins into the bucket with everything else.
  3. Pour over two litres (three and a half pints) of boiling water, stir until all the sugar has dissolved, and then cover lightly with a lid or a clean tea towel.
  4. Leave the bucket for three days to infuse, stirring well once a day, and then remove the fruit and flowers with a slotted spoon.
  5. Pour through a seive or straining bag (a straining bag is better because it will remove even tiny pieces of debris and bugs).
  6. Pour into bottles that have previously been sterilised. For glass bottles this means heating them in the oven and leaving them to cool (as you would jam jars), but for plastic bottles swilling round some boiling water in them is sufficient.

Storing elder flower cordial

Home made elderflower cordial can be stored in the fridge for four to six weeks, but if you want to keep it for longer you can freeze it for up to a year. If so, leave 7cm (3″) of air space at the top of the bottle so that there is no risk of it exploding in the freezer. If you don’t want to freeze the cordial, then you can use camden tablets to preserve it instead. Camden tablets are available from homebrew outlets, and you need to add half a crushed tablet to the recipe above at step 5, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Elderflower cordial preserved in this way should store well for a year in a cool, dark place, using sterilised glass bottles only. Once a bottle is opened it should be moved to the fridge and used within four to six weeks.

Note that camden tablets generate sulphur dioxide in the cordial, so allow a few days for the sulphur taste to disappear before you drink any. If you are using camden tablets and wish to scale the recipe up, allow one crushed camden tablet per gallon of cordial.

Elderflower champagne from cordial

You can also use your cordial to make champagne when you don’t have fresh flowers to hand, using our ‘elderflower champagne from cordial’ recipe.

Elderflower sorbet recipe

  1. Mix 165ml (¾ cup) of elderflower cordial and 300ml (1¼ cup) of water and cool until half frozen in a large glass bowl.
  2. Remove from the freezer and beat the mixture to a smooth slush.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat an egg white until it is stiff and fold it into the softened cordial/water mixture.
  4. Refreeze until firm. For added smoothness you can beat it once more as it cools, but this is not essential.
  5. Scoop out and serve in chilled bowls with a sprig of mint – or for a decadent twist, drizzle with a little chilled tequila.
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15 Responses to “Elderflower cordial recipe”

  1. Mrs Cake says:

    Started some off this afternoon. I’ve got no idea what it will taste like but the kitchen smells gorgeous! Does it matter that the flowers were still wet? It was raining.

    • Andy McKee says:

      You should be fine. The flavour may not be quite so good, but you’re not relying on wild yeasts (as you are with champagne) so it’s hardly a disaster. For the best flavour, though, harvest the flowers in the morning in fine, warm weather. That’s when they’re most aromatic.

  2. Med says:

    Thanks for this lovely recipe. I have just bottled up my cordial and there was enough left at the end for my first glass. Delicious! I hope to start some elderflower champagne off tomorrow if the sun comes out and I can go harvesting!

  3. dave mcdee says:

    Have made both cordial and Champagne and both are now bottled. Cordial is great and the neighbours love as well so had better make some more while the flowers are still young. No sign of bubbles in the Champagne yet but still early days.
    Thanks for two great recipes

  4. Gabby says:

    Looking forward to making the champagne. Is there a difference between plastic water bottles and fizzy drink bottles?

    • Andy McKee says:

      There sure is! One is designed to take pressure, the other isn’t. If you don’t have any suitable bottles, supermarket own brand fizzy water costs pennies.

  5. cathy hack says:

    There are so many variants of this recipe and all good, have been making gallons of this for years and its never enough! Planted cuttings of elderflower trees [that had spprouted when used for pea sticks]in my garden to be sure of having enough – I love Elderflower trees there is so much to drink from them!! My recipe is 10 l’s boiling water poured over as many flowers as you can be bothered to pick- about half a bucket-a lemon and its rind added, all left overnight, strained and brought to the boil again with 4kg’s sugar and 2-3 tblspns citric acid. bottle in sterilised bottles – or if you are lazy like me, blag the old spirit- vodka,gin,whiskey bottles from your local publican- adds a nice touch i must say. added to gin or voodka on ice its very good too :D

  6. Claire says:

    We made our first venture into elderflower homebrews last year by making elderflower champagne. Was fantastic to drink!! We used plastic bottles and they worked perfectly. I’ve never made cordial or wine but with two elder trees in our back garden, they’re on the agenda this year. I have a couple of questions, which may seem a little dumb, so apologies in advance.
    1. Does the cordial need to be diluted to drink or is this drinkable as is? Cordial usually means to be diluted to me but I thought I’d check as I may make more if so
    2. We are getting married late April 2014, if we make champagne this year will it last til then or is it best drank immediately? And if course it would be nice if they weren’t in plastic bottles, we’ve been saving glass flip top bottles from M&S that had sparkling elderflower drink in for this purpose but is it too easy to lose the gas early on by using these?

    Thanks!! Happy brewing!!!

    • Andy McKee says:

      Cordial does indeed need to be diluted, and well chilled soda water gives the best results.
      For your wedding I’d suggest making extra cordial this year and freezing it; then make champagne from it about six weeks ahead. Just stick ‘elderflower’ into our search box and you’ll find all the info you need.

  7. Katya Wheble says:

    We have made our first batch of elder flower cordial using 2kg of elder flowers , 20L. water , 20kg. sugar , 400gr. citric acid , 20 lemons , Adding the sugar to the water , bring it to boil and pour it over the flowers , add sliced lemons , citric acid and leave it to rest for 2 days , as stirring it from time to time , Today we have strained it , and the taste was all sugar and lemons , So we went to pick up more 2kg of flowers , added 12L. hot water to it , to make elder flower tea . We are planing to add this to the cordial to dilute the sugar content. Do you think this would be ok ?
    And also to ask about adding hot water to the flowers — some recipes says – add boiling water to the flowers and some say leave the water to the room temperature to rest and then add the flowers . My question is – Which method is better to use ? Many Thanks in advance

    • Andy McKee says:

      The problem with the first lot you describe is that you made a sugar syrup and brought it to the boil, which carries WAY too much heat so you lost the volatiles from the flowers. You’d probably be better using it as lemon cordial really – elderflower tea is nice but again, no volatiles: not the same thing.

      I prefer using boiling water to scald the flowers, but if you’re planning to freeze the cordial anyway then it doesn’t matter too much.

  8. Marion McIntyre says:

    Due to the effects of Hurricane Arthur I have had to leave my cordial mixture to infuse for an extra day. Do you think there will be any negative repercussions from this? Also I am interested in using the Camden tablets for the longer shelf life but I have question regarding the sulphur dioxide. How does it “disappear” if the bottles are sealed? I want to use glass syrup bottles with 2 part screw caps. Do I actually need to rack into a carboy fitted with an airlock and delay bottling for a couple of days ?

  9. Caroline says:

    I made some elderflower cordial last year but after about 2 weeks they started to go fizzy. This year, I am planning to use Campden tablets in order to preserve them for much longer. I read somewhere that for added precaution, a fermentation inhibitor should also be added. Do you think that this is necessary?

    • Andy McKee says:

      I’ve never bothered – you could use potassium sorbate but be very careful because it can impart a geranium-type taste which the elderflower would struggle to mask. Let me know how you get on…

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