Last Chance Elderflower Cordial

Today, my son and I made Last Chance Elderflower Cordial.  It’s best made weeks ago, back in early June when the fragrant, frothy flower-heads first appear in the lanes. But things have been busy, and I forgot – until my four-year-old asked rather plaintively if we were going to make some cordial this year. (My kids love cordial – the fact it contains a metric ton of sugar may have something to do with this. Healthy it is not).

The trouble is, we’d left it so late that the tiny white elderflowers have mostly gone over, with little green berries starting to form in their place. So we jumped in the car and went on an emergency elderflower hunt, looking for shady places where the last flowers might be clinging on. It was tough going. We climbed over ditches and through nettle patches. But we managed to find just enough flowers to make up a batch this afternoon. Little guy grated the lemon zest for me, while I tried to pick (most of) the insects out of the flowers.

The precious elderflowers

The precious elderflowers


Lemons ready for zesting and slicing

Lemons ready for zesting and slicing

Then we added heaps of caster sugar, some boiling water, and a little citric acid to help it last longer. The mix is now steeping for 24 hours, before we strain it and bottle it. I’ve included the full recipe below.

Elderflowers - mostly bug free?

Elderflowers – mostly bug free?

How much sugar...?

How much sugar…?

In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that the photos are in extreme close-up because the kitchen table was covered with paperwork, kids’ drawings, and the remnants of lunch. But at least the cordial got made!

Here’s the recipe I used:

Last Chance Elderflower Cordial

  • 20 large elderflower ‘heads’ – or if made in late June, whatever size and amount you can find that aren’t actually going brownish. (As ever, with foraging – if you’re not sure, don’t pick – please don’t poison yourselves, people!)
  • 3 to 6 lemons – sliced
  • 1.8kg caster sugar (nope, that’s not a typo…1.8kg!)
  • 50g citric acid (buy from a chemists, or online)
  • 1.5 litres boiling water


  • Ideally, pick the flowers away from busy roads or fields that have been recently sprayed; shake out any insects, and run under cold water to wash
  • Put the flowers in a large bowl, with the lemon slices  (and zest, if you want), plus sugar and citric acid
  • Pour over the boiling water, stir til the sugar is dissolved; cover with a cloth and leave to steep for 24 hours or so
  • Strain through a clean muslin or cloth (a tea-towel works); ie put the cloth in a sieve, place this over a large bowl, then pour the flowery mixture in – so that the cordial can drip through into the bowl, leaving all the gunk behind.
  • Pour the strained, clear liquid – a funnel helps! – into sterilised bottles or jars (you can sterilise them by putting them through a hot dishwasher or soaking in boiling water)
  • Keep in the fridge, don’t keep too long – it also freezes fine in plastic bottles.

To drink, pour a little out and dilute well with still or sparkling water, to taste.

Happy cordial-making!

20 responses to “Last Chance Elderflower Cordial

  1. Well done for making it? Here in Ireland there is still some time left so I must get my skates on. I always freeze some in ice cube trays so I don’t have to use it all in a month! It is worth planting either ‘Black Lace’ or ‘Black Beauty’ in the garden not just because they are nice shrubs but because their pink flowers make the most beautiful cordial!

    • Oooh that’s a great tip, thank you! I was thinking of planting some elderflower trees this winter, I will see if I can track these down! Good tip about the freezing in ice cube trays too, I’d forgotten that. I did some a couple of years ago, it was great to be able to bung a couple in with some stewed fruit etc later in the year. Made everything taste all summery…Thank you for visiting!

  2. I’ve never tried making or tasting elderflower cordial, is it very sweet ? Have you ever made elderflower champagne ? We make some every year and it’s delish and very easy to make:)

    • It’s not that sweet once its well diluted – it’s sort of flowery-sweet. I’ve never made elderflower champagne – my Dad did when I was young, and one year the bottles all burst in the garage and sprayed everything with sweet fizz. Took him ages to clean it up! But I would like to give it a go…If you happen to have a recipe/post on your site, I’d love to link to it here. (Or if not, I’ll see if my Dad is feeling brave enough to give it another go….!)

  3. I did the exact same thing with my boy last night, luckily found some lurking in the bottom of the garden! Was amazed at how much sugar it contains, but my elderflower googling has led me to your lovely blog……looking forward to some inspiring reading!

    • Glad you found some elderflowers! And thank you very much for your kind words. Your blog looks lovely – some amazing crafts going on there!

  4. Now that’s dedication… good to hear you found some elderflowers for the cordial making. Now you can look forward to a glass of ice cold cordial on a hot day.

  5. Wonderful! I just heard about elderberry cordial at one of our local farmers’ markets, while chatting with another fellow shopper. And here you are, giving full details on how to make it, lol!

    Nice to have met you, greetings from Canada 🙂


    • Hello, and great to meet you too! There are so many interesting things on your blog… My cordial was with elderflowers – but I have a friend who swears by her homemade elderberry cordial to keep coughs and colds at bay in the winter; I will have to see if I can persuade her to part with the recipe! 🙂

  6. I love it, I made it with flowers from Sambucus nigra this year and it came out a pretty shade of pink. A good tip to freeze it; I found out by bitter experience that it goes mouldy if you try to keep it too long. Such a pity after all that effort.

    • Oooh, pink cordial sounds wonderful! I’ve no idea why it sometimes goes mouldy – my Mum keeps hers for a year with no problems, but I find mine (same recipe, more or less) can go a bit odd after 4-6 months or so in the fridge, so I started putting some in the freezer as an insurance policy! It’s quite good in ice cube trays – you can just pop a couple of cubes out to add to things like stewed fruit or even ice cream, and it gives them that lovely summery taste…

  7. ooh, I’ve been thinking of trying elderflower champagne one year when I get round to it – but this might be a bit easier. Roll on next summer!

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