Nourishing Herbs. Beautiful Cordials
I have a great suggestion for a simple healthy indulgence. Have you tried making your own herb-infused cordials? Cordials are fun to make, fun to drink, and can be used as gifts for all seasons. Use warming herbs for winter months, cooling herb combinations for summer season, or enjoy anytime!
Until last year, I had only a vague understanding of what cordials were and how they could be enjoyed. Let’s start with a little history…
Herb Cordials – Definition and History
According to Wikipedia; “a cordial is any invigorating and stimulating preparation that is intended strictly for medicinal use.”
That’s a pretty good definition, but it’s not completely accurate. Historically, cordials were used medicinally and produced in apothecaries during the European Renaissance. Over time, cordials evolved into recreational beverages, and led to the development of modern flavored and sweetened liqueurs.
Cordials are blends of herbs, fruit, spices, sweeteners, and alcohol. The combination possibilities are endless! By using different combinations, we can create stimulating and warming cordials to enjoy in the winter, cooling and relaxing cordials for the summer months, and combinations of herbs, fruits and spices to create interesting flavors which are lovely added to tea, beverages, sauces, served over ice cream and used as topping for desserts.
Most cordials are sweetened with sugar, but I suggest trying combinations that include honey, maple syrup, even molasses for added depth of flavor. You can adjust the sweetness according to your taste.
Cordials can be made with fresh or dried ingredients, combined with alcohols such as vodka, brandy, gin and even wine. *If you do not drink alcohol, you can enjoy an herbal syrup added to seltzer or mineral water for a pleasant beverage.
*Non- Alcoholic Cordial Recipe
Herb of choice
12 tablespoons water
12 tablespoons sugar
Bring sugar and water to a boil, add herbs and simmer 8-10 minutes. Strain and bottle.
To use – add about 2 tablespoons (more or less) to 8-ounces of seltzer or mineral water.
Making Herb Cordials – Cordial Combinations
These are suggested recipes, don’t be afraid to get creative and invent your own!
Elderberry and Cinnamon Cordial
Packed full of antioxidants and powerful antiviral medicine, elderberries are excellent for combating cold and flu. Herbalists use alcohol to extract the medicinal properties from the herbs, helping to concentrate the plant’s medicine.
Combined with cinnamon and ginger for flavor and warmth, this cordial is a pleasant way to take our medicine.
- Elderberries – 1 pint fresh or 1 cup dried
- 1 pint 80-proof brandy
- 1 pint Maple Syrup (more or less, depending on desired sweetness)
- 2-4 cinnamon sticks
- Fresh ginger – a few slices, depending on your taste
- Zest of one lemon
Place elderberries in a quart jar with cinnamon, ginger, and lemon zest. Cover with brandy and maple syrup. Allow to infuse for 2 weeks or longer, gently shaking every few days. Strain out the fruit (delicious eaten with ice-cream!) and bottle.
Rosemary, Ginger and Pear Wine
Not a “true” cordial, this recipe makes a nicely flavored wine. It’s a warming and stimulating combination, especially for the circulatory system. The rosemary provides strong antiviral protection, combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, making this a pleasant medicinal beverage. It would be lovely added to a tea or used as part of a hot toddy.
- Rosemary – 2 medium sprigs (roughly 3 inches long) fresh rosemary
- Ginger – a few slices, depending on your preference
- 1 Pear, sliced
- Approximately 1 pint white wine of your choice*
*If you want, you can sweeten the wine with honey added either at the beginning, or after the wine and herbs have infused.
Place all the ingredients into a pint jar and cover with the wine. Allow to infuse at least two weeks. Strain and serve.
Hibiscus Roselle and Lemon Balm Cordial
Hibiscus roselle petals have a tart, fruity flavor, and create a lovely pink color. A flower native to the tropics, hibiscus is cooling and high in antioxidants. I now grow my own and use it in all kinds of fun recipes. you can read more about the benefits of hibiscus here. Combining hibiscus with lemon balm, a member of the mint family, creates a cooling and soothing blend. I recommend vodka for this recipe, to avoid hiding the beautiful red hue from the hibiscus. Sweetened with a *sugar syrup.
- Hibiscus flowers – 1/2 cup dried
- Lemon Balm – ½ cup dried
- Vodka – enough to cover the flowers and lemon balm.
Allow to infuse at least two weeks. When you are ready to bottle, strain the hibiscus and lemon balm, and add the syrup.
*Simple Syrup Instructions
Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water by heating gently in a saucepan. When you are ready to bottle your cordial, add the cooled syrup to the infused vodka.
Holy Basil Cordial
How about a calming cordial, perfect for relieving stress? Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is a deliciously soothing nervine. Not only does Holy Basil help us slow down and relax, it improves the body’s physiology, giving us greater strength and endurance. (Read about the benefits of Holy Basil for stress and adrenal fatigue, and ways you can use it in my post Healing with Herbs – Stress, Overwhelm, and Adrenal Fatigue)
Loosely fill your jar 1/3 full with fresh or dried Holy Basil
Add enough brandy to cover the Holy Basil, stirring thoroughly. After two weeks strain and add 1/2 cup honey (more or less to taste).
Cranberry Apple Cinnamon Cordial
Wouldn’t this be lovely served with a holiday meal?
1 cup Cranberries
2 Apples, skins removed, and sliced
2 sticks Cinnamon
Vodka to cover fruit
Add the cranberries, apples, and cinnamon to jar and cover with vodka. Let steep for at least a week, then strain out the fruit.
*Sugar Syrup Instructions
Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water by heating gently in a saucepan. When you are ready to bottle your cordial, add the cooled syrup to the infused vodka. Combining homemade violet syrup with your cordials makes a delightful treat.
What are some of the ways we can use cordials? Consumed in fancy little “cordial” glasses, combined with other beverages like teas, mixed drinks, or added to white wines or sparkling water, drizzled over fruits, ice cream, and cakes, used in sauces and marinades, and given as gifts in decorative bottles.
I am enjoying herb-infused cordials, both as an indulgence, and for gifting. I hope you enjoy them too.