Homemade elderflower cordial

Elderflower cordial (elderflower squash, elderflower syrup) is an infusion of elderflowers in sugar syrup. When it is diluted with 8-10 parts of water, elderflower cordial becomes a very refreshing, mild and fragrant soft drink which is ideal for hot summer days. It is rich in flavor which comes from the flowers and pollen.



Making elderflower cordial at home has a long history in Europe. This flavor is also known in the Fanta Shokata soft drink. Elderflower cordial is an excellent drink mixer and it can be used to enrich aroma and create a more complex taste in other drinks.

Served elderflower soft drink


Elderflower cordial recipe

To prepare 6 lit (6.3 qt) of  elderflower cordial you need:

60-80 large fresh elder flower heads

5 kg (11 pounds) granulated sugar

3 lit (3 quarts) water

40-50g (8-10 tsp) citric acid*

Optional:  6g (1.2 tsp) sodium benzoate (preservative)**


Prepare sugar syrup: bring to boil 3 liters (3 quarts) of water and add 5 kg (11 pounds) of sugar. Stir to melt sugar and bring the syrup to boil. Remove from heat. This will yield a little more than 6 liters (6.3 qt) of sugar syrup. Add citric acid. Optional (if you want to keep the cordial for a few months at room temperature): add 6g (1.2 tsp) of sodium benzoate (preservative). Stir to melt citric acid and preservative. Let the syrup cool for a few hours or overnight to reach room temperature. 

Place the elderflowers into a large clean container. The container should be at least 8-9 l (8.5-9.5 qt) capacity. Pour sugar syrup over the flowers, stir thoroughly to incorporate flowers into the syrup and cover with clean cloth. Let it steep for 24 hours and stir occasionally.

Elderflowers prepared for cordial making    Infusing of elderflowers in sugar syrup


After infusing for 24 hours, strain the syrup through cheesecloth and squeeze it by hand to collect as much cordial as possible. Discard the flowers left in the cheesecloth.
Pour the cordial into clean dry bottles. Close the bottles and protect the top with saran wrap to prevent any contamination during storage.

Pouring of elderflower infusion in pot lined with cheesecloth    Straining of elderflower cordial

Squeezing of infused elderflowers    Bottling of homemade elderflower cordial


This cordial can be stored for several years and will not change its taste. Eventually, the pollen contained in it will come to the surface, which is quite normal. Simply shake the syrup before use and the pollen will be evenly distributed again.

Homemade elderflower cordial    Homemade elderflower cordial - pollen on surface


This elderflower cordial is served diluted with 8-10 parts of cold water, either carbonated or still. In summer it is often served with ice. According to your taste, fresh lemon juice and a few mint leaves may be added. Lemon juice is a perfect aroma balancer and makes this elderflower drink much better and perfectly refreshing.

* This amount of citric acid is necessary for proper preservation, but is insufficient for a balanced ratio of sugar and acid. When serving, lemon juice should be added according to your taste. Thus, you will balance the acidity, but also enhance the flavor. If you wish, you can also add some orange juice, which will give the drink a completely different taste appeal.

** Sodium benzoate is a very common food preservative (E211), widely used in acidic (pH<4.5) food, drinks, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Its use in food is limited to 0.1% and it is designated as GRAS. It is often used as a preservative when soft drinks or canned fruits or vegetables need to be stored for a longer time period (several months) out of the refrigerator. It is important to emphasize that sodium benzoate should never be used when vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is added to the product, because these two together may form benzene, a known carcinogen.

Instead of using a preservative, the cordial can be preserved by pasteurization. However, high temperature during pasteurization will destroy a major part of pollen nutrients (such as enzymes). If you want to avoid both preservative and pasteurization, you can keep the cordial in the refrigerator for a few weeks or in the freezer for a few months.


Picking & preparing of elderflowers

An ideal situation is to pick the elderflowers while the sugar syrup is cooling. It enables the use of fresh flowers before they wilt, which is recommended for preserving all their flavors. The best elderflower cordial is made from freshly picked flowers, within several hours after picking.

Elderflower head    Freshly opened elderflowers


Only pick elderflowers from bushes that grow as far away as possible from busy roads, agricultural lands where pesticides are used or factories that emit pollutants. The reason for this is the fact that elderflowers should not be washed prior to making cordial because this will wash away most of its pollen and flavor. In case of polluted flowers are used, all pollutants will end up in the cordial.

Elder bush in wild


Elderflowers are best picked on a beautiful, sunny day. The best time is in the morning, after the dew has disappeared and the flowers have opened. Ideally, pick flowers that have come into bloom that particular day. Fresh flowers are identified in that they are full of yellow pollen powder that falls off easily. Collect only flower clusters that are fully open. You should do this carefully, so as to preserve as much pollen as possible. Pick only flowers where there are no aphids (it is easy to detect colonies of black or green aphids on the stalks).

Elderflowers attract countless little bugs. The best way to get rid of them is to let them evacuate themselves after picking. Leave the basket with elderflowers outside in the shade for about one hour, and you will find that lots of bugs have simply gone away.

Removing stems from elderflower headsThen, use scissors to remove green twigs from flower heads, because the green parts have a distinct, unpleasant scent which could affect the scent and taste of the cordial. While cutting the twigs, inspect flower heads and remove any remaining bugs.