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Fiona’s traditional elderflower cordial recipe

Phhoto of Elderflower blossoms for best cordial picked in bright sunshine

Photo: Elderflower blossoms in the sun - best picked for cordial

It’s elderflower cordial recipe season once again!
Yesterday afternoon I found myself up a tall ladder with a carrier bag, picking elderflower heads. I picked about fifty heads. They are best picked when the sun is on them. I climbed higher and higher to find exactly what I wanted. They had to be perfect with no trace of brown blossom. According to Joanna’s Food brown blossom can foul the cordial.

My sister brought a similar recipe back from France. Since I introduced Danny to elderflower and pink grapefruit cocktail, it seemed a good idea to make my own cordial tweaking the recipe to suit my taste.

There is a printable recipe card below the post!

There seem to be as many uses for elderflower cordial as recipes. Apart from adding a splash to fruit fools and pies, it can be added to a vinaigrette dressing, and apparently is delicious with chicken breasts. Determined to experiment I made double the quantity below. I poured my cordial into warm sterilised bottles and sealed them immediately with corks. They keep well in a cold area of the barn – we often are finishing the last bottle of cordial as the new flowers open on the trees. I also freeze some syrup, just in case.

Other elderflower recipes that my interest you:

Fiona’s Elderflower and Lemon cordial
 Judy’s Elderflower and Lime Jellies
Fiona’s Elderflower and Raspberry Jellies

Fiona’s traditional elderflower cordial recipe
Recipe Type: Cordials
Author: Fiona Nevile
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 48 hours
Total time: 48 hours 30 mins
Serves: 40
  • 1.5 litres of boiling water
  • 1 kilo of white granulated sugar
  • 20 large elderflower heads (if they are small, pick more)
  • 4 lemons
  • 55g of citric acid
  1. In a Pyrex bowl (or deep saucepan) pour the boiling water onto the sugar and stir. Leave to cool, stirring every now and then to dissolve the sugar.
  2. When cool add the citric acid, the lemons (zested and sliced) and the elderflower heads.
  3. Leave to steep for 48 hours.
  4. Strain twice through sterilised muslin (how do I sterilise muslin? See Tips and tricks below)
  5. Using a jug and funnel carefully pour into hot sterilised bottles (how do I sterilise bottles? See Tips and tricks below)

Tips and tricks:

How do I sterilise a jelly bag or muslin square?
Both can be scalded with boiling water. If you are using a clean muslin bag or square you can iron them with a hot iron. This also works with tea cloths.

How do I sterilise bottles?
The sterilising method that we used is simple. Just before making the syrup, I quickly wash and rinse the bottles and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c (140c fan-assisted). When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The bottles will stay warm for quite a while. Sterilise the lids by boiling these for a few minutes in water.

  Leave a reply


  1. TopVeg

    Thanks for the info on sterilising. How long do you expect the cordial to last in the barn?

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi TopVeg,

    The barn is very cool even on the hottest day. You are supposed to keep the cordial in the fridge but we just don’t have the space. I don’t expect it to last more than a couple of months but I have no idea as I have not made it before.

    We gave some away and are down to a couple of bottles now and these are disappearing fast. So probably I will not know this year.

    • Vanessa

      I am still using last years now just as we are about to start making this years – I made a whopping amount! But it doesn’t last long once the bottle is opened, prob only 2 weeks once opened out of the fridge.

  3. Greshcat

    Do you know the botanical name of the Elderberry/Elderflower tree that you have? Which is the best for the cordial?

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Greshcat,

    Our elder tree is the common elder tree that self seeds in the hedgerows around here. It is from the Sambucus family.

    I don’t know which is the best sort of elder tree for cordial. Ours is tough and ugly but produces great cordial.

  5. I have recently tasted elderflower cordial which was frozen very successfully. It only lasted a day or two after defrosting but in a smaller plastic water bottle you could just take out what you need.

  6. Trevor

    Hi, Just a side note, I replace the white sugar for Brown sugar, and add a little honey, and use sweet satsumas in place of lemons, the syrup is a ittle thicker, and is very arrowmatic, Nice with Gin and Brandy, a sort of Pimms mix. Also a nice Hot Toddy, if you have a cold, just add a little hot water, drink it as neat as you can…

  7. Fiona Nevile

    hI Ali

    I’m going to try freezing mine in cubes this year. so you can unfreeze individual portions as needed.

    Apparently the plastic bottles can leech into the cordial in the freezer, although this has never happened to me.

    I didn’t know that the cordial only lasts a day or two after defrosting, thanks for the tip!

    Hello Trevor

    That sounds excellent! Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Trevor

    Hi, This one goes a “bit” futher, use equal amounts of elderflower cordial as Gin, then add equal amounts of Damsons and white sugar, best I found is, 1pint of elderflower 1/2 pint of gin, 2lbs of damsons and 2lbs of sugar, make cut in damsons, and store in a large glass bottle, sealed, in a dry,cool dark room, for 6months, shaking the botle 3 times a week, then strain thru very clean tea towel, or thru coffee filters.
    Place liquid in good bottles, with srew top, and enjoy the drink neat, with coffee or tea.
    One of the “BEST” after dinner drinks you will get,friends will love the taste, as no one else makes it. Winner all the way..
    Best wishes trevor…

    • Loopy Lupin


      Can i just clarify your delicious sounding recipe please which I’m hoping to attempt when the damsons are out. You say equal parts gin and cordial but then say 1 pint cordial and half gin – am I being dim? Please confirm best combination.

      Many thanks.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Wow, Trevor, that sounds awesome. Thank you so much!

  10. Margaret

    If you are not going to freeze your cordial, keep an eye on it and occasionally loosen the top to release any air. A friend of mine had a glass bottle that exploded when the cordial fermented. You can imagine the mess the sticky cordial made!

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