Note: This article is how you can make your own elderberry cordial. You can use the elderberry syrup you’ve already made, or you can make it as a stand alone cocktail drink to sip and enjoy while getting all the health benefits! You’ll love this healthy and easy recipe for a lovely liqueur to enjoy or give as gifts!
We ran out of the elderberry syrup I put up last fall with elderberries I’d foraged in the wild. Between sharing with family and friends and Mr. V. and I taking our daily dose, the bounty ended. And guess what happened?
Three weeks later, Mr. V. was sick.
Yep. I tell you, that elderberry is just an absolute miracle. Its immune boosting powers are not a myth, I can tell you from many personal experiences.
Because I always prepare for needing extra elderberries every fall, I was able to simply get into our freezer where I had several gallons of elderberries fresh from the bush late last summer! Actually, Sambucus cerulea (the blue elderberry native to the Western United States) is bountiful where we live, so I just couldn’t help pick extra.
I whipped up some elderberry syrup for Mr. V. and myself, and then decided I’d turn a couple quarts into a lovely elderberry cordial. A cordial has the addition of a strong spirit, which helps preserve the syrup, even outside the refrigerator.
Besides that, it is absolutely delicious and a fun way to get the health benefits of the elderberries!
Making an herb infused cordial is a simple and delightful thing. It’s basically an herb infused syrup with a toss of good spirit like brandy. Or whiskey. Or whatever your taste buds like best. It’s medicinal, you know!
There are actually many ways to make a good cordial, but since I wanted to have some syrup left aside, I decided to do it my way. As usual.
Here’s how you can make some delicious elderberry syrup and then create your excellent cordial for a healthful, foraged herbal drink to sip!
NOTE: I added some echinacea root to the decoction part of the process for some extra immune boosting health benefits. Feel free to leave this out if you like—-it will still be scrumptious either way.
Elderberry & Echinacea Syrup & Cordial Recipe: Fast, Easy, Delicious
I used frozen elderberries for this particular batch, which is exactly the same as using them fresh from the bush. If you don’t have frozen elderberries (or fresh), you can use dried elderberries just fine. Simply cut the amount you use in half.
Now, I generally don’t measure anything out for my herbal syrups, so I’m going to do my best to give you rough estimates of measures. But if you want to eyeball your ingredients like I do, it will turn out just fine. This syrup is very forgiving.
Ingredients for Your Elderberry & Echinacea Syrup & Cordial
1) An approximate gallon of fresh or frozen elderberries by volume. If you don’t have this much, no worries. Just cut the ingredients down in proportion. Remember, if you use dried elderberries, use half the amount, as they will reconstitute in water.
2) Approximately 1/3 cup organic ginger chips. **These are NOT crystallized ginger, which is a sugared candy. These are dried little chunks of ginger root. I get mine at Starwest Botanicals. If you want to purchase from Amazon, you will most likely have to use powder, which is just fine.
3) Approximately 1/4 cup cardamom seeds.
4) Approximately 4-5 long cinnamon sticks.
5) And I threw in about 1/4 cup echinacea root.
6) Raw honey, maple syrup, or molasses—about one to two cups, depending on your taste buds
8) Brandy or other 80 proof (40% or higher) alcohol. I like brandy for cordials because it has a nice flavor that enhances the syrup perfectly. (Optional—-this ingredient is only if you are going to make your syrup into a cordial.)
Directions for Making Your Elderberry & Echinacea Syrup & Cordial
Step 1) Add your ingredients (NOT the alcohol) to a large pot.
Step 2) Cover generously with water. I covered mine about an inch and a half to two inches. Much of the water will evaporate, and that’s just fine, but you want a nice liquid at the end. If you don’t add enough water at this point, no worries! You can add more at the end if you need to.
Step 3) Now bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then turn down to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer for around 30 minutes. If you let it go a little longer, that’s ok, but 30 minutes is long enough to break down the hard spices and the elderberries.
You’ll notice the blue elderberries (if you’re using s. cerulea) turn dark purple, then start popping. That’s just what you want to see. If you are using black elderberries (s. nigra), same thing, but they will likely already be dark purple. Either is just fine to use.
NOTE: Any time you simmer hard spices and herbs, you are making what is called a decoction. This is simply an infusion of herbs and water. Decocting these hard spices helps them break down, releasing their medicinal goodness!
NOTE: Cooking the elderberries also ensures that you inactivate the cyano-compounds contained in any stems and the seeds of the berry.
Some people are worried about eating elderberries because of potential toxicity, but I’ve been eating them since I was a young kid with no issues. Cooking them takes away all the fears though.
Step 4) Once you have simmered long enough to have reduced the liquid a decent amount, leaving you with a lovely red juice, it’s time to strain off the herbs and spices.
Step 5) Now it’s time to add your sweetener. I know that some herbalists like to use equal amounts honey (or other sweetener) to liquid, but honestly, that’s just WAY too gooey sweet for me. I tend to use more in the neighborhood of 1/4 cup sweetener to 1 cup of the spiced juice.
Stir your sweetener in well, making sure it’s fully incorporated.
Your elderberry syrup is now done! Bottle it up in Mason jars or pretty bottles. Refrigerate. Herbal syrups will last quite a while in the refrigerator, and honestly, the more sweetener you added, the longer it will last. I’ve used mine up to three months with no issues. If it tastes “off,” or you’re questioning it, discard.
Coming up next: The elderberry cordial!
How to Turn Your Elderberry Syrup into an Amazing Cordial
Cordials are alcoholic syrups. It’s as simple as that.
Why would you want to put alcohol into your lovely syrup, you wonder?
1) The alcohol will further preserve your syrup, allowing it to be kept unrefrigerated for up to a year, according to Dina Falconi, author of the beautiful book, Foraging and Feasting (my new favorite foraged food book).
2) It makes a delicious sipping tonic! You don’t really want to drink a ton of elderberry syrup either way, as a little daily amount goes a long way. Adding a bit of spirit to your syrup makes it a lovely after dinner drink or something to enjoy while you sit on the porch.
Are you wondering how much alcohol to add to the syrup? Here you go:
Dina Falconi, in Foraging and Feasting, recommends you add 1 part alcohol to 2 parts syrup. So, for every cup of syrup, add 1/2 cup of alcohol. This will sufficiently preserve the syrup for a long time. She states this proportion will create a cordial that’s approximately 13% alcohol, which is about the same as wine.
HOWEVER, I’m really not much of a hard liquor drinker. Like…ever. But the idea of a little 2 ounces or so of a tonic drink sounds ok. I couldn’t bring myself to add that much alcohol to our syrup, so I cut the proportion down by half again.
Essentially, my cordial is a 1/4 cup alcohol to 1 cup syrup, which is probably more like 6 to 7% alcohol (a strong beer). And I’m good with that, even knowing it may have a decreased shelf life. As an experiment, I’ve got one quart of cordial in the fridge and one quart out of the fridge, just to check shelf life.
I’ll let you know how it goes in a year or so! 🙂
Would you like to watch a video instead? Or perhaps try an herbal tincture instead of a syrup? Here is a video where you’ll learn how to make an elderberry and echinacea tincture, and when it’s best to use these herbs! You don’t want to take echinacea all the time, and I’ll explain why in the video!
Final Thoughts on Elderberry Syrup and Turning a Syrup into a Cordial
OK—-now Mr. V. and I are all set up with our elderberry syrup and tonic for another month or so, and that’s a bit of a relief. Staying well in the first place is the best way to deal with illness, right?
As far as which is best: syrup or cordial—that is entirely up to you. I love the fact that you can use elderberries (and other herbs) to make concoctions that will work for anyone, children and adults alike.
Let me know if you give this a try and how it goes for you? Do you use elderberry syrup like we do?
Also, if you have been thinking about becoming an herbalist, you should check out my own school for perfect and affordable beginner and intermediate courses or The Herbal Academy of New England! I’ve taken (and am taking) several courses from them, and I highly recommend their research and science based approach.
You might also enjoy these related articles:
How to Identify & Forage Elderberries (Plus a Recipe)
Make the BEST Natural Homemade Decongestant Ever
How to Make Super Simple Two Ingredient Cough Syrup
And check out the Cold & Flu Care Series! Here is the article about How to Make Cold & Flu Symptoms Feel Better Naturally.
There’s lots more on the blog! Go on over and browse around!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and this text is for informational purposes only. Please be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional before using any herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.