Elderflower Cordial: With Or Without Citric Acid


A sweet, fresh and fragrant flower syrup to dilute in water, add to gin and cocktails or flavour bakes and desserts. You can make elderflower cordial with or without citric acid. This recipe explains how. Either way, it’s a must have cooling summer drink.A glass of elderflower cordial with sparkling water, ice and a slice of lemon.
I’ve been making or helping to make elderflower cordial pretty much ever since I can remember. Some years I make elderflower champagne instead, some years I make both. If you have an elder tree in the vicinity where you live, why not give it a go?


Here in the UK, the best time to forage for elderflowers is in June. Find trees that are well away from busy roads or other forms of pollution. Do make sure you have the landowners permission though.
Pick young flower heads, but make sure the flowers are fully open and dry. They should be creamy in colour and look similar to the image below.
A close up of an elderflower head in an elder tree.An elderflower head ripe for the picking.The scent is a funny one. Some people love it, some reckon it has a whiff of cat’s pee. Luckily any cordial or champagne you make with it, tastes delicious.
Use the flower heads as soon after harvesting as possible. They don’t keep well and that catty whiff develops over time.
Gently shake the leaves before using. It’s good to allow any insects to escape, but you don’t want to lose too much in the way of pollen. It’s the pollen that gives the flavour.
Only the flowers are edible in their raw state. All other parts of the elder tree contain significant quantities of a cyanide-inducing glycoside. So don’t eat the leaves, bark, roots, stems or raw seeds. The berries are edible if you cook them because the cooking process breaks down the cyanide-inducing glycoside.

Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial is a wonderful summer drink. It’s non-alcoholic so everyone can enjoy it. It’s also very easy to make. It takes time for the flowers to infuse their flavour, but hands on time is minimal.
A bottle of homemade elderflower cordial with lemons and elderflowers in the background.A bottle of homemade elderflower cordial.This delicious flower syrup is not the same as elderflower champagne. That produces a delightful bubbly drink that you quaff as is. It takes a couple of weeks to brew. Elderflower cordial, on the other hand, is a strong sweet syrup that you need to dilute before you can drink it. Much like orange squash in fact.
I’ve given two variations in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. You can make it with citric acid or without.
Why Add Citric Acid To Elderflower Cordial?
Citric acid is often added to elderflower cordial. This is for two reasons. It helps to prolong the cordial’s shelf life and also adds some much needed acidic notes. Elderflower cordial has a lot of sugar in it and can taste very sweet without some sharpness to cut through it.
Citric acid is, however, hard to get hold of. Last time I went to the chemist to get some I was given a grilling as to why I wanted it. When I finally convinced the pharmacist I didn’t want to cut my drugs with it, I was only allowed a small amount to take away. Bah humbug!
These days I tend to make it without as it’s too much hassle to acquire.
Turns out I prefer the flavour without the citric acid. The elderflower cordial has a cleaner, fresher taste. Win win.
Elderflower Cordial: Step-by-Step
Once you’ve picked your elderflowers, there’s very little work left to do. If, however, you need the cordial for a specific time or occasion, you’ll need to start the process at least one day before.
A glass of elderflower cordial with sparkling water, ice and a slice of lemon.A glass of elderflower pressé and a bottle of elderflower cordial.Step 1. Sugar Syrup
Start by dissolving the sugar in water. In a large pan add the sugar and water and place over a low heat. Wait for the sugar to dissolve, giving an occasional stir to help things along and assess progress.
As soon as the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the citric acid or vinegar, depending on which way you go. Then pour the hot syrup over the elderflowers which you can prepare whilst the sugar is dissolving.
Step 2. Slice Lemon
Whilst the sugar is dissolving, prepare the lemon.
It’s best to use an organic lemon for this as you’re using the whole thing, rind and all. If you can’t get hold of organic, go for unwaxed. If you can’t get unwaxed, use an ordinary lemon, but give it a good scrub with soap and water first.
Slice the lemon thinly, then place at the bottom of a large heatproof bowl. Don’t worry about any pips, you’ll filter those out later.
Step 3. Prepare Elderflowers
Whilst the sugar is dissolving, prepare the elderflowers.
Gently shake the elderflowers to allow any insects to escape. You can add the flowers to the bowl in one of two ways.
Remove the flowers from the stalks with a fork and add to the lemons in the bowl.Alternatively, as a much quicker method, place the heads face down in the bowl so that the stems are poking upwards.
Step 4. Steep Elderflowers
As soon as you’ve poured the hot syrup over the elderflowers, cover the bowl. You can do this with a plate or clean tea towel.
Upturned elderflower heads steeping in sugar syrup.Hot syrup poured over elderflowers and lemon.Leave the elderflowers to steep in the bowl for at least twenty four hours. The longer you leave them, the more the liquid has a chance to soak up the flavours. You can leave it as long as forty eight hours. I usually leave mine for about thirty six hours.
Step 5. Bottle Cordial
Before you’re ready to bottle the cordial, you’ll need to sterilise your bottles. I like to use small glass bottles with an approximate capacity of 250 ml. These are more likely to fit into my fridge than larger bottles and once opened, I don’t have to panic about not finishing it before it goes off.
As soon as your cordial and bottles are ready, you’ll need a large clean jug, ladle, sieve and piece of muslin cloth. A jelly bag works well if you have one.
Muslin lined sieve over a jug with ladle.Muslin lined sieve over a jug ready to extract elderflower cordial.Line your sieve with the muslin and place it on top of the jug. Ladle the cordial into the sieve and allow it to drip through. The flowers, lemon slices and any other unwanted bits are left behind in the sieve.
Remains left over from straining through a piece of muslin.Steeped remains.As soon as the jug is full, decant the liquid into the bottles and seal. Keep going until the bowl is completely empty.
A jug of elderflower cordial strained through muslin.Elderflower cordial strained through muslin.Once the liquid has more or less stopped dripping through the muslin, gather it up by the tips and give a gentle squeeze. You want to extract as much of the juice as you can, but not to the extent that you make the liquid cloudy.

How Long Does Elderflower Cordial Keep?

If you make elderflower cordial with citric acid, it will last for about three months. Without it, it’s best to drink it within six weeks. However, elderflower cordial freezes really well and will easily keep in the freezer for a year.
Whichever way you make it, it’s best to store it in the fridge. Unless you’re freezing it, of course.
When you crack open a stored bottle of elderflower cordial, you may find a layer of yellow on the top. Don’t worry, this is just the pollen that has risen up. Just give the bottle a good shake before using.
If any mould has formed, discard the cordial.
Once opened, use within a week.
To Freeze Elderflower Cordial
You have one of two ways to freeze elderflower cordial.
Decant your freshly made beverage into small plastic bottles and place in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge for a few hours before using.Alternatively, pour it into ice cube moulds. Place in the freezer until frozen, then remove from the moulds and place in a plastic bag. You can then take one out whenever you fancy an iced elderflower drink.

How To Use Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial is an incredibly useful ingredient for summer sipping and so much more. Here are some of the ways you can use it.
A glass of elderflower pressé with bottle of cordial, elderflowers and lemons in the background.A glass of elderflower pressé.A Refreshing Drink
Elderflower cordial is a wonderfully fragrant, cooling summer drink. Pour a little into a glass, add cold water and sip. How much you add, will depend on how strong you like it. As a general guide try one part cordial to ten parts water. I don’t like sweet drinks, so I tend to dilute mine quite substantially. I can still taste the elderflower though.
Go with still or sparkling water, whatever your preference. Dilute it with fizzy water for an elderflower pressé. Ice and a slice of lemon are excellent additions.
A jugful of diluted elderflower cordial is a must for summer parties. Kids and adults alike will enjoy its fresh flavour and thirst quenching properties.
It also makes a lovely addition to a gin and tonic. Just saying. There are heaps of other cocktail ideas out there. Adding some to champagne or prosecco is an easy one to start with.
Bakes And Desserts
It’s also a fabulous ingredient to use in both bakes and desserts. It pairs particularly well with gooseberries, rhubarb and summer berries.
Try poaching rhubarb or gooseberries with a drizzle of elderflower cordial. Drizzle it over ice cream or add it to fresh fruit salads. I use it in my recipe for red gooseberry cakes. I’ve also used it in this chocolate pavlova with rhubarb and elderflower curd recipe.

Other Homemade Syrup Recipes You Might Like

Keep in Touch

Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make elderflower cordial, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And do please rate the recipe. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #nanorecetas, so I can spot them.
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Choclette x
Elderflower Cordial. PIN IT.
A glass of elderflower cordial with sparkling water, ice and a slice of lemon.

Elderflower Cordial – The Recipe

A glass of elderflower cordial with sparkling water, ice and a slice of lemon. Print

Elderflower Cordial: Two Ways

A sweet, fresh and fragrant flower syrup to dilute in water, add to gin and cocktails or flavour bakes and desserts. You can make elderflower cordial with or without citric acid. This recipe explains how. Either way, it’s a must have cooling summer drink.Prep Time20 minsCook Time0 minsSoaking Time1 dTotal Time15 d 20 minsCourse: Drinks, PicnicsCuisine: BritishKeyword: elderflowers, fizz, fizzy drinks, foragingServings: 40 peopleCalories: 72kcalAuthor: Choclette @ Tin and ThymeIngredients600 ml water (1 pint)750 g golden sugar granulated or caster1 organic lemon sliced – use unwaxed if you can’t get hold of organic12-15 elderflower headsWithout Citric Acid2 tbsp apple cider vinegar can substitute white wine vinegar or kombucha vinegarInstructionsSlice the lemon and place at the bottom of a large heatproof bowl. Don’t worry about any pips that go in.1 organic lemonGently shake the elderflowers to allow any insects to escape. Remove the flowers from the stalks and add to the lemons. A fork works well for this. Alternatively, place the heads face down in the bowl so that the stems are poking upwards.12-15 elderflower headsDissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, stirring occasionally until it’s dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil, then remove from the heat.600 ml water, 750 g golden sugarStir in the citric acid, if using, or vinegar and stir. Pour the hot syrup over the elderflowers and lemon.2 ½ tsp citric acid, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegarCover the bowl with a plate or clean tea towel and leave the elderflowers to soak for twenty four to thirty six hours.Line a large sieve with a clean muslin cloth and sit it over a large clean jug. Ladle the liquid into the sieve to filter out the flowers, lemon and any other unwanted bits.As soon as the jug is full decant the liquid into sterilised bottles. Unless you have a steady hand, you might want to use a funnel to pour the liquid into the bottles. Continue to strain until it’s all bottled.Store in the fridge for up to three months, if using citric acid or six weeks if using vinegar.NotesPlease read post for full hints, tips and further information.Produces approximately one litre. If you want to make more than this just double the ingredients.Dilute to roughly 1 part cordial to 10 parts water, but tastes vary and you may prefer it stronger or weaker than this.Can freeze in plastic bottles for up to a year. Alternatively, freeze as ice cubes.Please note: calories and other nutritional information are per serving. They’re approximate and will depend on exact ingredients used.NutritionServing: 125ml | Calories: 72kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 31mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 15IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg Share on Facebook


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