Time to be cordial (with our cocktails)
Cordials are often referred to as liqueurs or flavoured liquors; however, today we will be making the UK style of cordial, which is more akin to a concentrated syrup.
I’m sure we’ve all noticed and maybe even reached for that bottle of neon green lime cordial at the grocery store. Sure, it works “fine” in drinks like a classic Gimlet (which is simply gin and lime cordial, shaken and served in a chilled cocktail glass), but the artificial lime flavour can take away from the beautiful spirits we love.
It’s time to leave the neon green in the rear view and make our own cordial from fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Fresh lime juice and sugar can be used as a makeshift substitute, but the combination lacks the bitterness and sharp sour notes that a true lime cordial can offer.
Cordials are pretty easy to make, with varying methods that can be done in an hour or left to steep overnight. We’ll be using citric acid to balance the sugars and highlight flavours, while adding depth and complexity.
Let’s start with classic lime cordial and then try a few new recipes that are great in both traditional and zero-proof cocktails.
How to make lime cordial
You will need
• A medium-sized pot
• Cheesecloth or coffee filter
• Fine mesh strainer
• Resealable 750 mL bottle and/or large jar
• 1.5 cups water
• 0.75 cup granulated sugar
• 0.75 tsp citric acid (see note)
• 1 cup lime juice (from roughly 3 large limes)
• Peels of 3 large limes (no white piths; piths add bitterness)
1. Place the water in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once water is warm (but not boiling), slowly add sugar and citric acid and stir until dissolved.
2. Meanwhile, to create a clearer, more transparent cordial, clarify the lime juice by straining it through cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter.
3. Add lime juice and peels to the hot water mixture, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, cover with lid and let cool for 1 hour.
5. At this point you can strain off all the solids, transfer the cordial to a sealable bottle and place it in the refrigerator. This method isn’t as deeply flavoured, but it will be ready in just over an hour.
6. Alternatively, if you have time, transfer the cordial mixture to a large sealable jar and place it in the refrigerator to steep overnight—this will produce a richer lime flavour. The next day, strain off all solids and pour the cordial into a sealable bottle.
7. Store the cordial in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
Note: Citric acid can be found at specialty retailers like Gourmet Warehouse, as well as at some grocery stores and mass retailers, or ordered online. If you want to enhance the limes’ complexity, add 0.25 tsp malic acid (which naturally occurs in limes) and decrease citric acid to 0.5 tsp for acidic balance.
Strawberry Elderflower Cordial
Follow the steps in the basic cordial recipe, but replace the water, sugar, citric acid, lime juice and lime peels with: 0.75 cup water, 0.5 tsp citric acid (or more if you prefer a tarter cordial), 0.75 cup elderflower syrup and 0.5 cup hulled whole strawberries (fresh or frozen).
Follow the steps in the basic cordial recipe, but replace the water, sugar, citric acid, lime juice and lime peels with: 1.5 cups water, 0.75 tsp citric acid, 0.75 cup granulated sugar, 0.33 cup clarified lemon juice, peels of 2 lemons (no white piths), 15 g fresh basil leaves, 10 g fresh thyme sprigs and 0.25 tsp sea salt. For this recipe, remove lemon peels after initial simmering, then add fresh herbs and salt to the pot and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. This recipe benefits from overnight steeping in refrigerator; strain and bottle the following day.
Make these cocktails at home with your homemade cordial.
—by Matthew Benevoli