Home-made Elderflower Cordial

This simple elderflower cordial makes a refreshing drink that lets you enjoy a taste of Spring throughout the Summer months.

A colander full of white elderflower heads

If you’re new to preserving, this is a great place to start. Elderflowers are easy to spot and easy to recognise, and this cordial is really easy to make.

Elderflowers are the blossom of the elder tree (Sambucus nigra). They’re a common sight in hedges, gardens and woodlands throughout the UK. The flowers are in season for about six weeks, starting to appear in mid-May and reaching their peak in June. You’ll soon learn how to spot their frothy heads of creamy-white flowers.

It’s best to pick elderflowers in the late morning on a sunny day, avoid picking them on a rainy day. Make sure that at least half of the buds have opened on each head that you pick and check the blossoms to make sure that they have the distinctive elderflower scent. Flowers that are past their best will start to look brown and smell a bit like wee.

As with all foraged foods, there are a few basic guidelines to follow:

  • Be sure you can identify what you’re picking, leave it if you’re in any doubt 
  • Don’t pick from below waist height (to avoid dog and fox wee!) 
  • Avoid picking near roads due to the fumes from passing traffic 
  • And leave some for the wildlife and other foragers

It’s best to process your elderflowers as quickly as possible after you’ve picked them as the scent and flavour will start to deteriorate. Don’t wash the flowers, just give them a shake to remove any insects and leaves and then put them aside for an hour or so to give any tiny bugs a chance to escape. 

This gorgeous home-made elderflower cordial is easy to make and you can use it as a soft drink or in cocktails and cooking recipes.

Home-made Elderflower Cordial
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Resting Time
1 d
Total Time
1 d 30 mins

A refreshing elderflower cordial that's really easy to make at home

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: English
Keyword: Cordial, Preserving
Servings: 2 litres
Author: Sally Akins
  • 25 large elderflower heads
  • 3 unwaxed lemons
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • 1 kg white sugar
  • 25 g citric acid (optional)
  1. Set the elderflower heads aside for an hour or so after picking so that any small insects have a chance to make their escape.

  2. Zest and juice the lemons, adding enough cold water to make the juice up to 150ml.

  3. Add the elderflowers and lemon zest to a large bowl and pour in the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it aside to infuse overnight.

  4. Next day, strain the elderflower water through a scalded tea towel, muslin cloth or jelly bag and pour the strained liquid into a large saucepan. You can discard the flowers and zest now.

  5. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and citric acid, if using. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, bring the liquid up to a simmer and then allow it to simmer for five minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, make sure that your bottles, closures, funnel and any other equipment are sterilised.

  7. Pour the hot syrup into your bottles using a funnel, then seal the bottles with whatever closure you are using (corks, screw tops or swing top lids).

  8. Store in a dark place for several months, and store in the fridge after opening.

Recipe Notes

To use, dilute one part cordial to five parts iced water, add a splash or two of undiluted cordial to fruit salads and desserts or dilute one part cordial to two parts and freeze for ice lollies.

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