When I was a kid living on a Karroo Farm in the 1950’s and 60’s (wow that makes me really old!) we never drank fizzy cold drinks, but my Mother made wonderful fruit cordials. The only fizzy drink we had on the farm was home-made ginger beer, but deserves a page on its own.


According to Wiki: “A cordial is any invigorating and stimulating preparation that is intended for a medicinal purpose. The term derives from an obsolete usage. Various concoctions were formally created that were believed to be beneficial to one’s health, especially the heart.”

I’m calling mine cordials as they have such a low sugar content they cannot be classed as syrups. And ‘squashes’ appear to have conflicting definitions. Anyway, my cordials are all fruit or herb based and with the minimum of added sugar, they must be good for the heart and soul, so cordials they shall be!

A few things other than the hot weather stimulated my cordial making frenzy this week.

It all started with me pruning the lush lemon verbena bush, then whilst ‘tidying the freezer’ I found a half packet of frozen pomegranate seeds, a chunk of frozen ginger root, at least a kg packet of solid lime juice and another even larger one of lemon juice. We had to turn the freezer off for 12 hours just before Christmas to clear a blocked drainage pipe and at that time my stash of lemon & lime ‘ice cubes’ must have defrosted and refrozen into the solid blocks of juice!

The following 3 cordials emerged

Pomegranate and Rose Geranium (recipe)

Lemon Verbena and Lemon (recipe)

Lime and Ginger (recipe)

To preserve cordials or to make them shelf sable there are usually 3 required criteria

  1. Heat to destroy any bacteria or yeasts cells on the fruit and in the bottles
  2. High sugar content to prevent bacterial growth
  3. Good acid content to prevent bacterial growth or fermentation

By definition you will see that the Pomegranate and Rose Geranium and Lemon Verbena and Lemon drinks may be defined as infusions as they had a lower acid content and that I chose to limit the sugar content. Both of these were delicious without diluting them and further and by simply adding plenty of ice.

The Lime and Ginger Cordial has more sugar, but far from the traditional recipe that often calls for equal parts lemon juice to sugar. The addition of some Tartaric Acid makes it quite acidic and so it is shelf stable and needs to be diluted with still or sparkling water.

Dilution with warm water turns the Lemon Verbena and the Lime and Ginger very satisfying warm drinks. Sweeten these with honey.

I collect a few pretty bottles especially for the cordials. You will see that I supported a brand of vino admittedly just for the bottles. The wine was good too!

I simply had to share the following pics. While I was photographing the cordials Muscat & Chianti had to ‘photo bomb’! They are great companions in the kitchen and garden!

To sterilize the bottles

Make sure that they are spotlessly clean and rinsed to remove any dish washing residues. Pour about 150ml into each bottle. Place them in the microwave. If they are too tall, lie 2-3 bottles on their sides and microwave for 4-5 minutes. The boiling water and steam with sterilize them.

Place the corks, lids or stoppers in a clean bowl and cover them with boiling water until required.

I usually use the low acid / low sugar ‘infusions’ within 2 weeks. I refrigerate them well before serving.

The more acidic lemon or lime based cordials, such as the ginger one have a shelf-life of about 6 weeks.

You can also use these as bases for cocktails and non-alcoholic mock-tails.

I mixed some gin with the Pomegranate one and the result was stunning, not dissimilar to a Cosmopolitan, where Cranberry juice it used, it was just far better!

The zingy Lemon and Ginger is amazing as a base for a Margarita!