Elderflower cordial recipe

Another easy peasy recipe

(when you know how) !

It´s that time of year again. The bbq gets dusted off, and the elderflowers need to be picked !
This is the recipe we used at home every year in Surrey, England.


And… introducing the ‘Citric acid’ ingredient

I always reminisce this time of year about elderflower picking and cordial making. Here´s Paul making some before we sold the house in 2018. Still time to make one last small batch though and managed to get enough heads from the tree in the garden.

The recipe is so simple and was given to us my our lovely friend Sarah, who we used to go picking Elderflowers with. Brings back memories to see the gorgeous smelling climbing English rose in the background – also a present from Sarah for our 25th wedding anniversary !

Last updated Jun 20, 2024 at 4:52PM | Published on Jun 2, 2021

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making elderflower cordial

Paul, sporting his old favourite ´thumbprint´shirt ! The elderflowers are sitting close to him- Don´t confuse them with the others in the vase of flowers in the foreground. Honestly, they don´t last long in a vase, but it´s a super summer aroma boost for a few days if you have some left over.  

 When to pick elder flowers

  • Picking the heads is my favourite part. You can see a head in Paul´s hand. The heady smell is divine !
  • Elderflower head picking time is usually end May / beginning June. They´re usually finished by mid June.
  • Pick them when the flowers are fully formed.
  • Pick on a sunny day, middle of the day in lots of sunshine is best so as to get the maximum scent and flavour from them.
  • Try to pick ones in a field well away from traffic fumes. 

The Elder Tree.

Before you pick, make sure you have identified it your tree or bush as an Elder tree. There are several similar looking blooms at this time of year. They´re usually pretty scraggy looking trees but this one pictured below is the tidiest one I´ve seen. It produces berries in the winter and blossom early summer. You should smell it for a start, and the wee flowers have 5 little white petals.


Once they´re picked, examine them for bugs and remove them. That´s what Paul is diligently doing in the picture above ( good job for children !)

What to pick

You´re just picking the head, but make sure it´s full of blooming buds. Don´t pick one that has half closed ones on it too ! Don´t pick it if the buds have started to go brown as they are finishing and not in full bloom. The blossoms only last about 6 weeks from mid May to Mid June in the UK, so getting them mid season is perfect.

 You´ll find elderflowers growing wildly everywhere in woodland, hedgerows and in fields. But go for the best and freshest. Don´t pick ones that are low down where animals could have been on them, or too near traffic fumes.

wide mouth mason jars for hand blending in , sous vide cooking, canning, freezing etc


For picking, take a basket or plastic bag big enough so you don´t crush the heads and lose any petals.

A nice big bowl like a baking bowl. I really miss this big metal one I had.

Sterilized jars or bottles, or  mason jars to keep the cordial in.

A knife (A Sharp Knife like this simple chef knife) and chopping board for the lemon.

A good pair of scissors are all you need to cut them, the branch leading to the heads should not be too tough. Sometimes you can even nip them off, but it´s annoying when you can´t ! An inexpensive pair, from a good brand like these pictured below, is an essential kitchen item don´t you think.

Finally, bring something to hook the high branches down to get at the best crop. An umbrella handle works well !

kitchen scissors


  • 40 Elderflower  heads – picked at the right time !
  • 2 Lemons, sliced in large chunks
  • 4lbs Granulated Sugar
  • 2.5oz Citric Acid
  • 2.5  pints boiling water

Shopping list

There are so few ingredients, you probably have them already in the house – except maybe the citric acid.  And you definitely need the citric acid to make this. 

It was the only thing that could be tricky to find. I remember driving round pharmacy after pharmacy to get it ( Milford pharmacy always had a supply ;).  But they ran out fast this time of year as everyone was doing the same thing ! Over the years, we would have some of this white powder leftover in the cupboard from the last elderflower making season. It was never quite enough though,  and we´d still have to shop for more !

It wasn´t until we left the UK and I was desperate for the taste of Elderflower at this time of year, but I couldn´t find it in the shops… so I went online. I was finding dried elderberries which was interesting, but also noticed it was so easy to buy the citric acid online. If only I had known before !  

What is Citric Acid ?

It´s found naturally in citrus fruits ( hence the name) , especially in lemons. But it is also manufactured because it´s so useful ! It´s used as a natural preservative so you will find it in many other products. It´s really sour and looks like salt – so it´s also known as sour salt. And just as you would add something acidic (vinegar or lemon juice) when cooking, to boost the flavour of your food, the citric acid also does that to the elderflower cordial too – it gives a fresh sourness to balance all the sugar in it .

* Balances acidity * Preserves * Enhances flavour *

Citric acid… a.k.a. Sour Salt

It balances the acidity in beer and wine making, and helps the ripening process in cheese making. You´ll also see it in canned food and jams as a preservative.  I´ve even heard it´s used in making home-made ice-cream so I´ll have to investigate that one further.
You will also see it advertised for cleaning or making bath bombs. Just make sure you are getting a food grade citric acid, and you shouldn´t pay too much for them. It is quite a cheap product. I´ve picked out some for you on Amazon.

ingredients for elderflower cordial

Caster sugar I think here, but to be honest, I only like to use Coconut Palm sugar nowadays. I´d love to try a stevia version but it would take some trial and error and I ave no elderflowers ! I´ve since found the Elderflower cordial in IKEA. That´s for anyone in the same position as me ! But, it´s only in IKEA in Gran Canaria island, not in Mallorca IKEA boooo. 


Step 1

Remove any bugs  ! 

Step 2

Place all ingredients in a large pan. 

Step 3

Thoroughly clean the lemons. Organic is recommended.
If you can’t find organic, let the lemons sit in some vinegar water for a few minutes, then rinse.

Step 4

Pour the boiling water over and stir until the sugar dissolved.  

Step 5

Steep for 5 days, stirring each day.  Then strain through a mesh bag ( or an old stockings ! )  and bottle it. 


How to enjoy your Elderflower cordial

my preserved lemons

Just dilute it with water, still or sparkling, and enjoy the refreshing taste. Add a slice of lemon, some mint leaves, and ice for a fancier, and more complex non-alcoholic cocktail.

Elderflower cocktail – The Hugo

For an alcoholic cocktail, replace the water with mostly sparkling wine and you´re almost there with a HUGO cocktail. Think of Hugo as the German equivalent of an Aperol spritz.  So make it like you would make an Aperol Spritz. 1/3rd cordial, 1/3 sparkling wine ( champagne, cava, or prosecco) , 1/3 sparkling water.  Or just a splash of sparkling water / soda water will do in my Hugo !  I would also crush some mint leaves in the glass first with some ice, then add the liquid and more fresh mint leaves. Finish with a little squeeze of lime and/or a slice of lime to decorate. 

And here we are, finishing with another memory image from this time last year. Enjoying a Hugo with visiting daughter… at one of our favourite local restaurants (El Ambigú).

She´s due to return this weekend – how appropriate.
Now which do you think I wanted more when I took this pic tho— the vesper or the cocktail… both of course.

Whilst the sun is out… are you ready for bbq season ?

If you need to know what to buy, or even just want a round up of what´s possible… and know what you´re talking about at the latest bbq event, them read the new guide here

Beginners guide to know about barbecues 2021

Barbecue Guide 2021

What are all the different types of barbecue and which would suit you best ? What´s hot this year !

See the 2021 best brands and models. Buying guide and must have accessories.

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Thank-you to Tengyart from Russia for this sad to mad eggs image.

Eggs can be the most difficult things to cook well, and I feel this image represents all the emotions from cook to chef.

Makes us giggle.


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Affiliate disclosure

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I may earn a commission.

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