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Elderflower Cordial (with just 3 ingredients!)

Sweet, floral and so refreshing, my 3 Ingredient Elderflower Cordial recipe is simple to make. This delicious syrup is perfect for cool drinks on hot summer days.

Despite suffering from hay fever, you’ll always find me in the woods at this time of year. It’s not because I enjoy sneezing, it’s because it’s Elderflower season, and I never miss a chance to pick loads of this heavenly scented flower to make a big batch of Homemade Elderflower Cordial.

The delicate flavour of elderflowers makes a refreshing summer drink and my year doesn’t feel complete without it!

What is elderflower cordial?

Elderflower cordial is a delicious syrup made from the flowers of the elder tree. It is the best way of preserving the delicate, sweet, floral scent of the elderflower for the whole year.

Elderflower cordial makes a refreshing drink mixed simply with sparkling water, is a wonderful addition to summer drinks and cocktails and is ideal for infusing summery bakes. My easy elderflower cordial recipe is super simple with only three ingredients.

All about Elderflowers

Elder trees (sambucus nigra) are native to Europe and North America and have been used in cooking since at least the Roman times. The edible flowers are renowned for their sweet floral flavour and are a sure sign that summer is just around the corner.

The elder tree is said to have magical properties. In folklore an elder tree near the house was said to ward off bad luck, or even scare the devil away!

Starting as a small tree or bush, the elderflower can grow several metres high, and for a month or two is covered in abundant white flowers.

Elderflower heads are actually flower clusters known as umbels (like an umbrella) and are not just eaten in their flowery state. Later in the year, they produce multitudes of dark, intensely flavoured berries, highly prized in Europe for making elderberry cordial, a tasty syrup full of natural Vitamin C.

Fresh picked elderflowers on white background

Top Tips for picking Elderflowers

  • Elderflower blossoms from late spring to early summer, usually flowering from late May to early July in central Europe.
  • For best results, Pick the elderflowers on a dry day – a sunny, dry morning will ensure the elderflowers taste their very best.
  • Smell the flowers as you go. You are looking for open blossoms with a heady scent and strong floral fragrance. The stronger the scent, the more flavoursome and delicious your cordial will be.
  • Wear long trousers and closed shoes when you go picking elderflowers, the elder tree has a symbiotic relationship with stinging nettles and they are often found at the base of the tree.
  • Take a basket or cloth bag to collect elderflowers, a plastic bag can make the flowers sweat and smell unpleasant (like pee!)
  • Elderflowers love to grow alongside busy roads and motorways, but it is best to pick elderflowers as far away from car exhaust fumes as possible. As you shouldn’t wash the elderflower before infusing them (it washes away all the flavour), it is a good idea to pick them in a clean environment.
  • Make the infusion as soon as possible after picking these fragrant flowers, that way you will capture the best, sweetest, most delicious flavour.
  • Picking elderflowers is a great family activity and an easy way to introduce children to the fun of foraging. After all, what could be better than making your own cordial?

How to use Elderflower Cordial

There are so many different ways! The most famous way, of course, is to make a sort of elderflower lemonade or elderflower pressé by mixing the finished cordial with sparkling mineral water.

You can also use elderflower cordial in place of simple syrup for cocktails. Or mix it with spirits to make elderflower gin or elderflower liqueur. The famous Hugo Spritz Cocktail is one of the most popular summer cocktails in Germany.

Elderflower syrup is so refreshing on hot summer days, a couple of tablespoons of elderflower cordial drizzled over ice cream or fruit salad is a great way to boost the flavour.

The tiny elderflower blossoms are also edible so they make a pretty garnish for a cake that has been infused with elderflower cordial, though they do wilt quickly.

Easy three ingredient elderflower cordial

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Can I freeze elderflower cordial?

It is possible to store elderflower cordial in the freezer, though the high sugar content can mean that it doesn’t freeze hard. You could try diluting it a little and freezing it in ice cube trays as a way of adding delicious flavour to a cool drink on a hot day.

How long can I store elderflower cordial?

If you have been working very cleanly, elderflower cordial will keep for 6 months or even longer. Be sure to store the bottles in the refrigerator once opened.

Can I make elderflower cordial without citric acid?

Yes, you can just use the lemon slices, though without citric acid the cordial will not keep as long (a couple of weeks, maximum) and will need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

My elderflower cordial has gone cloudy. Is it still safe to drink?

As long as the cordial still has a pleasant smell it is fine to drink. Occasionally the pollen in the syrup (that’s the flavour, remember) can make the cordial look a bit cloudy, but it is perfectly safe to drink.

Can I make elderflower cordial with less sugar?

Yes, though as with the citric acid, the sugar is what preserves the cordial. If you reduce the sugar in the cordial then it is likely to spoil much faster and must be kept in the refrigerator and consumed fairly quickly. I’d recommend storing in small batches. A smallish 500ml bottle (2 cups) is ideal, that way you can freeze and defrost as needed.

Easy three ingredient elderflower cordial

Elderflowers are covered with wild yeasts and can be used to make seriously tasty Elderflower Champagne. Watch this space for a recipe!

Easy three ingredient elderflower cordial

3 Ingredient Elderflower Cordial

Yield: 1.5 litres (1.5 qt.)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Infusing Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 20 minutes

Elderflower cordial is a delicious syrup made from the flowers of the elder tree. It is the best way of preserving the delicate, sweet, floral scent of the elderflower for the whole year. My easy recipe has just 3 ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 20 elderflower blossoms (umbels) elderflower (see notes for tips)
  • 1 kilo (2 lb.) of white sugar
  • 20g (1 heaped tablespoon) citric acid
  • optional: 1 whole lemon, sliced

Instructions

  1. CHECK THE ELDERFLOWERS: (IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT wash the elderflower, the flavour is in the pollen and you will simply wash it away.) Place the elderflowers on a clean tea towel, trim away any leaves from the elderflower, inspect for bugs or insects, then transfer the flowers to a large bowl or saucepan.
  2. INFUSE THE ELDERFLOWERS: Cover with 1 litre (1 qt. or 4 cups) of cold water, the lemon slices (if using) weigh the elderflower down with a side plate, put the lid on the saucepan and leave to infuse for 24 hours.
  3. STERILISE BOTTLES: Directly before making the syrup or cordial, wash your glass bottles with hot soapy water. (you’ll need 1 ½ litre / 1.5 qt. capacity in total). Heat the oven to 120°C / 250°F / Gas ½ then lay the bottles directly onto the oven rack. Heat while you make the syrup.
  4. MAKE THE SYRUP: After the elderflowers have infused for 24 hours, strain the infused water through a fine sieve into a large saucepan, discarding the elderflower and lemon, if using. Stir through the sugar and citric acid, then cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  5. BOIL THE SYRUP: When the sugar has dissolved, bring the syrup to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes.
  6. BOTTLE THE SYRUP: Carefully remove the hot bottles from the oven and place them on a wooden chopping board. Use a funnel to fill the bottles with the hot syrup, leaving a little space at the top. Seal and allow to cool completely.
  7. STORE: Store the bottles in a cool, dry place for 3-6 months. Once opened keep bottles in the refrigerator.
  8. TO SERVE: Mix the elderflower syrup with soda water / sparkling mineral water to taste. I usually start with 1 part cordial to 4 or 5 parts water. If you want to try a recipe for a cocktail with elderflower, you have to try the famous Hugo Spritz Cocktail!

Notes

  • Elderflower blossoms from late spring to early summer, usually flowering from late May to early July in central Europe.
    For best results, pick the flowers on a dry day - a sunny, dry morning will ensure the elderflowers taste their very best.
  • Adding lemon slices to the syrup is optional, I find sometimes the strong oils in the lemon zest and the lemon juice can overpower the delicate flavour of the flowers. Citric acid is more reliable and does not have a strong flavour. It also acts as a preserving agent, so your cordial will last longer.
  • I like to use glass bottles with swing-top lids for storing my elderflower cordial, you can use plastic containers or plastic bottles but you must ensure that they are scrupulously clean.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 60 Serving Size: 1 glass diluted cordial
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

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Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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