In the world of cordials, there are many different types of drinks to enjoy. Whether you prefer it mixed into a cold glass of water or tonic, a delicious cherry cordial dessert, or a cordial liquor that is perfect for your imbibing palate, there is something for everyone in the world of cordials.
In this blog post, we will explore all things cordial: the different types of drinks available, the history and origins of cordials, how to make your own delicious concoctions at home, and more.
Let's dive in!
What is Cordial?
How about we start with the basics? Cordials are often described in a few different ways when it comes to beverages because the word can refer to several different drinks. Many people consider a cordial as synonymous with a liqueur. However, it can also describe a tonic, a syrup, or a sweetened non-alcoholic drink. We'll discuss that in-depth in just a moment.
Cordials have been enjoyed for centuries all over the world. The word "cordial" comes from the Latin cordialis, which means "heartfelt" or "of the heart." Cordials were created as medicinal elixirs and were thought to cure a variety of ailments. Cordials were often alcohol-based and contained spices and herbs, and other ingredients. Some cordials included Royal Usquebaugh, with gold leaf flecks, and Rosolio or Rosa Solis, which had the sundew plant. The sundew plant was thought to be an aphrodisiac and a heart stimulant.
These days, cordials are enjoyed primarily for their sweet taste used in various ways.
What Kind of Alcohol Is Cordial?
If you've been wondering, "do cordials have alcohol?" the answer is both yes and no. Because cordials take on varying uses, there is not a simple answer. Let's break it down.
Cordial is often synonymous with liqueur, so in this case, cordial does contain alcohol. Cordial liqueurs typically have a brandy base sweetened by numerous herbs and spices. Cordial liqueurs often fall into categories based on the ingredients used to develop their flavor. The most common elements are fruits, herbs, nuts, spices, creams, juice, or fruit pulp.
When a beverage is a cordial containing alcohol, it's often flavorful, low in alcohol content, and meant to be consumed after a meal. A cordial drink is sweet, which works well in place of dessert and helps tie together the flavors of an entire meal. Cordial alcohol percentages typically range from 15% alcohol by volume (ABV) to 30% ABV.
When a cordial does not have alcohol, it is either one of two things: a syrup or a concentrated beverage. While these two things are primarily the same at their core, different countries may utilize them differently. Cordials are a consumable entity of many uses, from carbonated beverages to cocktail components to recipe ingredients for baked goods.
Cordial vs. Squash vs. Liqueur
Many people view the numerous uses for cordial as positive, but it may also stir up some confusion. Let's compare cordials versus liquor, as well as liqueurs and squashes.
We already know that cordials and liqueurs are synonymous with cordials with alcohol. From a technical perspective, cordials and liqueurs are liquors because they fall under the distilled spirits category. However, they differ from other liqueurs because they've been sweetened by herbs, spices, fruits, extracts, and different flavors. Liquors like brandy, whiskey, or rum are the base of cordials and liqueurs. Therefore, liquor typically refers to stronger spirits that act as the base for liqueurs and cordials.
Some countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, or the UK, refer to cordials as squash. Squash is a non-alcoholic, concentrated drink meant to add flat water or seltzer water, making a delicious cordial drink. Flavors vary widely from lemon to kiwi to peach. The ratio for drinking these concentrated cordials typically requires four parts of water. According to Australian Beverages, squash cordials help people drink more water throughout the day.
Cordial and Water
Cordial and water, or squash as some countries call it, is a standard beverage for those looking to flavor or sweeten water and soda water. There was even a reference to cordials in Peaky Blinder's, the infamous television show. However, we can't be sure if the cordial and water the Irishman accepted was the syrup-based concoction or an actual libation. We will have to use our imagination!
If you're looking to try cordial and water, you may be wondering what happens when the two mix. Since we're currently referring to cordials as the squash beverage consumed in the UK and Australia, the water acts as a solvent when combined with the concentrated sweetener. Whether flat water or soda water, the liquid dilutes the concentrate to produce a flavored, sweetened drink.
Cordial glassware for sipping cordials that contain alcohol comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, from a bowl shape to a tulip shape. The common theme is that they are pretty small with the ability to hold two to three ounces of liquid. There are a few standard cordial glasses made for specific spirits or liqueurs:
- Grappa: Glassware for drinking grappa typically look like a round bowl that tapers at the rim.
- Sherry & Port: Fortified wines like sherry and port are served in small glassware that resembles a miniature wine glass.
- Genever: In the Netherlands, genever is typically drunk from a small tulip glass, which is designed to hold enough liquor to fill it all the way to the rim. The Dutch custom is to lean over the glass and, without using your hands, take a long sip off the top.
- Schnapps: When you drink schnapps, you may commonly see it poured into a stemmed glass that flairs out at its rim.
Cordial Drink Ideas
There are many different types of cordials available on the market today, which means you can find almost any flavor you can think of! If you're looking for inspiration to make a cordial drink, check out a few examples below!
Cherry cordial may be one of the most popular as it is commonly used in both drink recipes and desserts. Cherry cordials can take on many forms, but one unique variation is a must-try. It is called a wisniak nalewka.
Nalewka is a Polish, aged cordial made with fruit and vodka (or neutral grain spirit with a high ABV). Cherry nalewka is downright delicious and can last up to three months. Check out the recipe below.
- 0.5 pounds of sour cherries
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups grain spirit or vodka (Everclear is a great option)
Place the cherries in a one-liter jar. Pour the sugar to cover the cherries and slowly pour in the alcohol. Make sure to leave a gap at the top of the jar and not to shake or stir the mixture. Tightly seal the jar and store it in a dark place, like a pantry or closet, at room temperature.
After three months, open it, strain the mixture, and transfer to a new bottle. Serve, sip, enjoy!
Citrus is a standard and trendy option when seeking delicious cordials. The great thing is that different citrus types pair well together, so you can flex your creativity when making your own at home! Check out the recipe below to get started.
- 2 cups citrus juice (lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange, etc. It's your choice!)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1.5 cups water
- Citrus zest from whatever citrus you chose
- 1 tsp citric acid
Place all the ingredients in a bowl or saucepan and pour boiling water over the mix until the sugar dissolves. Strain the mixture into another bowl. Transfer to an airtight container, seal, and save for whenever you're ready to pour!
This variation does not contain alcohol, so it's perfect for any crowd or beverage!
List of Popular Cordials
You can easily make cordials at home to create unique flavor combinations. But if you don't have the time to do so, you can always pick from the cordial list below! The list also includes a few liqueurs since they're synonymous with cordials (except in the UK). Adding unique flavors to cocktails with cordials provides endless opportunities.
Popular cordial flavors include cherry, elderflower, ginger, mint, raspberry, blackberry, orange, and other citrus variations. Cordials are often sweetened with sugar or honey too. You can find cordial liquors at most liquor stores or online retailers.
Check out the cordial lists below!
Popular Cordials & Liqueurs For Cocktail-Making
- Thorncroft Rosehip Cordial: A famous brand with a long history, this cordial tastes of rosy sweetness. It is perfect for adding a floral note in cocktails or sprucing up sparkling or tonic water.
- Belvoir Elderflower Cordial: Elderflower is an ingredient that maintains its spotlight in the mixology world. This cordial is another excellent option for adding a light, floral note and a dash of sweetness to whatever you decide to mix up.
- Grand Marnier: Many classify Grand Marnier as a liqueur, but it deserves a spot on this list. It's the best orange liqueur for mixing up margaritas or other fun, citrus-infused libations. It's also a lovely dessert cordial or after-dinner cordial when sipped on its own.
- Liber & Co Blood Orange Cordial: Blood orange is another fan-favorite for cocktails and mocktails alike. The flavor is excellent in the summertime but can also fit many other seasonal drinks often found throughout fall and winter.
- Belvoir Ginger Cordial: We had to be sure to include a ginger cordial, as it is another sought-after flavor. Ginger cordials make for a great addition when adding a unique kick of spice to cocktails. It is also a great addition to winter warmers like the classic Hot Toddy.
While Mixly's mixers aren't considered cordials, you can also opt for them for quick and easy drink making! If you're looking for a refreshing mocktail, all you have to do is pour, stir, and serve. If you're looking for a boozy kick, it's the same procedure but with an added shot of your favorite spirit (or cordial).
Whether you're looking for something to quench your thirst or something to enjoy a tipsy night with friends, cordials are a perfect choice. There is a wide variety of cordials available on the market, so you're sure to find one that's perfect for you. With so many different types of cordials to choose from, the possibilities are endless!
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring the world of cordials. Cheers!