Elderflower Cordial

Mix it with gin, prosecco, water, petrol, absolutely anything, it always makes it better. A sweet scented, floral liquid that is amazingly easy to make, but always feels like a luxury. That’s what I am all about, cheap stuff making you look fancy.

The only problem with this is that the cream-white flowers needed for elderflower cordial only appears at the beginning of summer. However, when it does it’s in a massive abundance in bushes, woodlands, hedges, scrub everywhere. I picked a shit tonne in Peckham so it probably grows everywhere else.


How to find elderflower:

Elderflower unfortunately looks very like an edible but flavourless weed called cow’s parsley and also a pretty poisonous little plant dude called cow’s bane. Now all of the flowers look pretty similar – small white flowers clustered into heads of many flowers. However, there are some key differences that do make them pretty easy to identify. The Cow’s bane and parsley both grow as small shrubs from the ground and have leaves with segmented parts – that look like weird spindly hands. Also the big difference the Cow’s bane and parsley do not smell super fragrant.


Elderflowers grow on an elderbush. Here is a key point, it isn’t a small plant, it is more like a young tree, and can grow pretty high. Look for the flowers at about head height or up. The leaves as well are a classic leaf shape (if you were to ask a child to draw a leaf) – oval with slightly serrated edges. Also, just shove your nose into it, it will smell like elderflower.


When you pick it put it into a basket or fabric bag so that it doesn’t begin to wilt on your way home.


To make around 2 litres of cordial

  • About 30 elderflower heads (you can add more if you want it really fragrant)
  • Zest of three limes and 1 lemon and the juice of all three limes
  • 800g of plain white sugar (caster sugar)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of citric acid (optional) – you can pick it up in most african supermarkets


Grab your flowers, and try shake off all the insects, do this gently so that you don’t shake off the flowers. Don’t worry too much if there are bugs in it, they won’t end up in the cordial, they might just add some bug zing to the flavour

Place all of the flowers into a large bowl (large enough to hold 2 litres of water as well) with the zest of the lime. And pour over 2 litres of boiling water. Cover with a lid (foil will do) and leave to sit overnight so all the flavours infuse and have fun together.

The next day grab your bowl and pour it through a muslin (I used a clean tea towel) into a saucepan. Now add what will seem like an insane about of sugar, the lime juice and the citric acid.

Heat the mixture gently to dissolve the sugar, stirring a little, then bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles (you can sterilise by washing them in very hot water and then placing them in boiling water or after washing put it in the oven at 120C until dry), seal the bottles immediately. This stuff keeps for bloody ages. Let it cool down first and then put the fridge so it’s chilled as a mofo on 420, when you pour it into your favourite drinks.   

  1. Great tip about where to buy the citric acid: a couple of years ago a friend tried to get it in Boots and was met, at the pharmacy counter, with the information that they’d not only run out but that they would hesitate to sell it since it could be used both for bomb making and for drug use… I think it’s sold in powder form in the African stores.

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