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How very cordial

April 18, 2010

Its tigress canjam time again and the ingredient of the month is herbs — Food in Jars and Tigress in a jam both have posts about this month’s challenge with lots of tips, thoughts and book suggestions (the latter I am trying my best to ignore as I have way too many books now!)

I did pick up a nice selection of herbs just last week at the farmers market but they were for planting in the two planters in our front yard.     Since we’re having a bit of coldish weather at the moment I”m keeping them in the vestibule for the next week and will plant them out next weekend.   I’m excited to think that soon I’ll have a steady supply of mint, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, chives and others that I’m forgetting right now.  When I repeat this month’s canjam recipe I’ll able to do it with my own herbs.  Meantime I mostly settled for organic produce from wholefoods.

When it came to deciding what to put up this month I hardly had to think, you see we have a signature cocktail at our house.  Every summer Melissa makes her fabulous basil lime cordial – a dramatically basil flavoured simple syrup that she derived from an epicurious recipe.  Its been simplified a little and is easy to make and really good with soda water but even better with the addition of a healthy helping of vodka.  I’m always telling her we should make big batches of it and can some so its ready whenever we want it, and now I’ve done just that!

To add to the excitement and try to give the herb family a bit more time in the spotlight I decided to try two additional batches with other flavorings.  The second batch is a rosemary lemon cordial in honor of the rosemary vodka lemonade we enjoyed so much when we went to Ici for dinner during restaurant week (they were the highlight of my meal there actually).  Then I passed the new lavender stall at the farmer’s market and thought it would be worth giving that a try as well.  I have to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect with the lavender but it turned out great, a subtle floral taste which was well-balanced with the lemon and vodka.

What I love about these lemonades is how much the flavor of the herbs really shines through all that citrus – each one has a really distinctive tastes.  I think they are just a little suprising, sophisticated and all round super tasty!

Herb Citrus Cordial (makes 4-5 pints)


  • 6 cup sugar
  • Zest of 6 citrus, in large pieces of peel
  • 4 cups fresh citrus juice
  • 2 cup water
  • 8 cups loosely packed fresh basil or 2 cups lavender or 20 stalks of rosemary or some other herb you want to cordialize.


  • In a large pot bring sugar, zest, juice, and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.  Add the herbs and let the syrup infuse for at least 15 minutes.
  • Meantime prepare your canning jars.
  • Strain syrup through a fine sieve, squeezing out as much syrup as possible from the herb leaves before discarding them.
  • Boiling water process for 10 minutes.

Serve with vodka and a splash of soda water, or just soda water if you prefer!

80 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2010 12:33 am

    Ohhh why do I read stuff and immediately feel busier than ever!?! I have to add this to the list, since it looks great, it will come right after the Mostly Foodstuffs rhubarb cordial on my official mental ranking docket! Great backlit pic, too!

    • April 19, 2010 11:46 am

      rhubard cordial… tell me more. would be perfect to make some this spring i think!

  2. April 19, 2010 12:34 am

    What a great idea! Loving the inventiveness of this month’s Jam. I’ll have to remember this when herbs are overwhelming me this summer.

    • April 19, 2010 11:46 am

      I am hoping my little plants will overwhelm me later this summer… it’ll be so fun to revisit the herb roundup and try lots of new recipes!

  3. April 19, 2010 4:21 am

    what a lovely photograph and great use of the word ‘cordialize’. I intend to use this word at every opportunity from now on. Fancy cordials feature more and more in posh delis and it makes perfect sense to have a stock of them in the pantry. Yours sounds delcious.

    • April 19, 2010 11:47 am

      Perhaps we can get cordialize into common usage if we work hard and drink hard! I’m glad you’ll be working on that project with me!!

      • chelle permalink
        March 12, 2013 4:14 pm

        you’d be *remiss* not to!

  4. April 19, 2010 11:42 am

    So very special! And the photograph is just gorgeous. Now all we need is those nice sunny days with which to loll about!

    • April 19, 2010 11:48 am

      Yes, this weekend was disappointingly cool — hoping for better next saturday! Glad you like the photo!

  5. Livy permalink
    April 19, 2010 1:54 pm

    It is wonderful indeed. I will be trying my hands at my own batch this week.

    • April 20, 2010 9:54 pm

      It can be the signature drink of the whole building! Although I know you are too much of a creative mixologist to be tied down to just one signature drink!

  6. April 19, 2010 2:31 pm

    This looks fantastic — I’m already thinking of ways to use what you’ve shared in the next few months!

  7. April 19, 2010 3:20 pm

    Can’t wait to try your recipe! I made May Wine jelly:

    • April 20, 2010 9:52 pm

      I had no idea what may wine jelly was until I read your post – I was consumed with panic that there was a herb called may that I really should have known about! It looks lovely.

  8. April 20, 2010 1:10 pm

    I have to agree with the others, I love your inventiveness! I will definitely have to give a few of these cordials a try as well. I bet they would make a tasty popsicle for the summer too. Thanks for the inspiration!

    And rhubarb cordial? OMG!

    • April 20, 2010 9:51 pm

      Popsicle sounds like a great idea: I used to make them as a kid and haven’t done it for so long – thanks for the reminder of long lost loves!
      I will have to hunt down the rhubarb cordial w/ rebecca if she doesn’t come back and tell us more!

  9. April 20, 2010 3:46 pm

    Awesome picture! What herb is in the orange cordial? I’m surprised that the colors are sooo different! I’ll bookmark this recipe to make it this summer. We love lemonade!

    • April 20, 2010 9:50 pm

      The orange was the lemon and lavender – I was totally suprised at the color actually, but it looks like your lavender jam is around the same color…

      • April 21, 2010 1:34 am

        I thought my jelly turned so orange because I used raw cane sugar (which is brown) instead of granulated sugar. But now that I know the orange cordial is the lavender lemon cordial, the color of my jelly might be due to the lavender… Interesting!

      • April 21, 2010 6:38 am

        Doesn’t the silly flower know they named a color after it, and its not orange at all! Who’d have thought!

  10. April 21, 2010 9:19 pm

    Ooh I just made a lavender-lemonade…I’ll have to try the rosemary too. Thanks for the idea!

    • April 21, 2010 9:37 pm

      I guess great minds think alike! I’m glad to see yours is the same pinkish/orange and non-lavender color!

  11. arugulove permalink
    April 22, 2010 12:16 am

    This looks amazing. I love sweet plays on herbs – so refreshing. Can’t wait to try this.

  12. Sara permalink
    April 22, 2010 6:44 am

    This sounds great. The first time I had mint lemonade I couldn’t believe how delicious it was, partculalrly as I didn’t think I liked mint. So these cordials, with some of my favorite herbs would be amazing!

    • April 22, 2010 1:37 pm

      I love mint lemonade! I’m planting some mint in the front yard so hopefully I’ll be able to make some w/ my own mint this year!!

  13. April 22, 2010 8:13 pm

    These look beautiful. Can’t wait to try some fresh herbs in my next beverage.

  14. April 24, 2010 9:27 am

    This photo is fantastic – it reminds me so much of Mary Pratt’s Jelly Shelf. And I’m definitely going to try the lavender cordial – how long would it keep, do you think?

    • April 24, 2010 1:01 pm

      If you process it it should last at least a year, I’m not sure how long it will last just in the fridge, I think lemon juice starts to lose its flavor after about a week.
      I did not know Mary Pratt’s work: I wish my Canadian relatives would have sent me some mail with the Jelly Shelf stamp on it – what a lovely picture.

  15. Carmen permalink
    April 27, 2010 1:00 am

    It looks like a great recipe! I’m gathering ingredients to make it! I think I’m going to try lavender first!

    In the recipe, it calls for “Zest of 6 citrus, in large pieces of peel”, what kind of citrus did you use? The zest of 6 lemons is a very different quantity from that of 6 grapefruits

    • April 27, 2010 6:56 am

      hey carmen: you are so right, that would be a lot of grapefruit zest! i did both lemon and lime and did zest of six in both cases, which is still a different amount completely, but i figured since it was going to get strained out and since the more citrusy the better, i thought it woudl be ok. if its grapefruit though i’d think one or two would be plenty!

  16. Carmen permalink
    April 27, 2010 4:21 pm

    I made lavender & meyer lemon cordial and then made gin cocktails with it, and they were SO heavenly!!! DH couldn’t get enough! Thank you so much for this recipe! Fantastic!!!!!

    • April 27, 2010 4:30 pm

      Carmen: that is SO great, I bet the meyer lemon was even better than my regular lemon version and the gin probably the perfect complement to it all! Thanks for coming back to let us know of your success!

  17. May 7, 2010 8:58 am

    Just blogged about your cordial. I can’t wait to give it a try!

  18. May 7, 2010 1:47 pm

    Wow, these are so much fun. What a wonderful favor idea. I would love to link to these if you didn’t mind.

  19. May 12, 2010 1:42 am

    this sounds great…I will be giving it a try….have so much lavender 🙂

  20. May 15, 2010 7:23 am

    This looks great! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  21. Gerard Peter Joyas permalink
    March 29, 2011 1:04 am

    I know I’m kind of late in reading this post, but i suddenly became intrigued in trying this out. I have one question though. After the syrup is infused and is strained out, do you boil that for 10 more minutes? And also, what is the ratio of soda water and/or vodka should i use? I apologize, I’m new to all of this.

    • May 8, 2011 7:35 pm

      The 10 minutes after straining is if you want to can/preserve the cordial: I find it good to make a whole lot and keep it on hand for whenever friends drop by unexpectedly: or after a long day at work! But you can also make it and use right away and there is no need for anything else after the straining. As for the ratio of soda/vodka/cordial, its very much a matter of taste, i use about equal parts cordial and vodka — maybe a 1/4cup of each and top up with soda water.

  22. Albina permalink
    April 11, 2011 12:18 pm

    Would it be ok to freeze this instead of canning?

    • May 8, 2011 7:32 pm

      I’ve never tried and am not sure if it would be as good; but if you do try it, let us know!

  23. July 14, 2011 4:23 pm

    what is the “boiling water process” step at the end? thanks 🙂

    • July 16, 2011 12:17 pm

      If you want to keep the cordial for a long while (up to a year, or more) you can use the canning method of boiling water processing. Essentially you sterilize the jars, fill them, close them and then keep them in boiling water for long enough to seal and preserve. If that is something that interests you you can certainly find proper step by step instructions online. But if you want to simply make enough cordial for a week or so its easy enough to make and just leave in the fridge.

  24. August 8, 2011 12:35 am

    Gorgeous! I have a big jar of nocino curing but it won’t be ready for months and these sound like perfect summer mixers. I’m going camping in a week, and I think I’ll make a few bottles of this for sipping at the beach. Yum!

  25. August 15, 2011 11:40 pm

    I just made the lemon lavender and the lime basil combinations….amazing! I’m bringing them camping along with a bag of ice and a bottle of vodka. Used properly as bribes, I don’t foresee lifting a finger all weekend 😀
    Thank you!

    • Susan permalink
      August 31, 2011 12:41 pm

      I made several varieties – very tasty (rosemary lemon, applemint-lime, lime basil lime)! I just pulled out a jar of the lime basil – lime I made a few weeks ago, boiling water bath processed for 10 min as instructed. The cordial was cloudy. It still tates fine, though I may give it a boil before we use the rest. Do you think something went wrong in the processing, or is it ok? The ingredient proportions look similar to others in the Ball canning book, so I didn’t think I’d have any problems with safe keeping.

      • August 31, 2011 2:23 pm

        Hi Susan:
        I think its always best to err on the side of caution with canning: but that said, I have had some cloudiness in some canned goods (stock, pressure canned) that was not a result of any problem but was just particles that hadn’t been strained out in the making.

  26. Susan permalink
    September 1, 2011 1:44 pm

    I checked all of my jars – the two made with fresh lime juice were much more cloudy than the others. I used bottled lemon juice for the lemon varieties as I was tired of juicing(!), which was more clear to begin. I didn’t strain the lime juice before adding it – I wonder if that made a difference… next time I’ll try that.

    Thanks for the great recipe, and the quick reply!

  27. September 19, 2011 2:01 pm

    what’s the shelf (refrigerator) life of the cordials once canned?

    • September 19, 2011 3:13 pm

      If you hotwater bath can the cordial you do not need to refrigerate them (if you haven’t canned before its pretty basic and there are lots of how to’s on the web but you do want to follow the instructions and get it right to prevent problems). In that case you can keep them pretty long… they say canned goods should be enjoyed w/in a year before they start to loose their nutrients… but i’ve kept some longer and they still tasted good.
      If you keep in the fridge w/out canning its a much shorter lifespan… maybe a week or two.

  28. March 5, 2012 3:22 am

    What an amazing idea! I use herbs to make natural hair rinses but have never heard or tried making cordial out of them! This goes on my ‘must try’ list!

  29. March 6, 2012 1:36 pm

    Can hardly wait for my herbs to mature!
    How long will this keep (like there’d be any left)?

    • March 6, 2012 1:40 pm

      I hot water bath canned a whole lot so then it keeps well (rule of thumb for canned goods is a year but after that they are still OK, just loose nutritional value/taste). You could also freeze the cordial (perhaps in ice cube trays to make for very easy beverage making!) If you don’t intend to do that then I’d think you’d want to use the mix within a few days to a week.

  30. anna permalink
    May 24, 2012 2:19 am

    can i replace the sugar with honey? or agave?

    • May 24, 2012 7:59 am

      If you are not planning to make large quantities and can them you can certainly try a different sweetener and use anything that tastes good (we’d love to hear back how it works out!) but if you are planning to hot water bath can then I recommend finding an existing lemonade recipe that uses honey or agave and starting from that: I don’t mess with canning recipes really, it never seems safe.

  31. September 9, 2012 9:11 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    hootenanny plans…

  32. March 12, 2013 1:26 pm

    Reblogged this on Kitchen Klutter and commented:
    Sounds delicious and refreshing!

  33. Jason Owens permalink
    April 17, 2013 2:49 pm

    When it comes to cooking, I am an amateur. My fiancee and I would like to serve the lavender lemonade as a signature drink at our upcoming wedding. Are there any simpler recipe instructions in existence than what’s above? Thanks!

    • April 17, 2013 2:51 pm

      I can’t see how it could be any simpler: perhaps ask a friend who is a little more comfortable in the kitchen to help you


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