Easy Lemon Cordial Recipe

Our Simple Lemon Cordial Recipe came to be on a hot summer’s day when we were looking for something just right to quench our thirst. Yes, we do have hot days in Scotland, especially this summer!

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - Cordial mixed up in jug and glass with lemons next to it

We started talking about drinks from our childhood, and both of us remembered Lemon Cordial at the same time.

This wasn’t just any old shop-bought squash, though. This was freshly made, hand-squeezed cordial that just tasted of the summer. Little did we know when we were both little how well it mixed with gin and rum, what a joy that was to discover! 

So, then we debated whether or not our memories were enough for us to share our Lemon Cordial recipe with you here… we figured that if we remembered it so fondly, others might too! 

But Lemon Cordial isn’t Scottish?!

We understand Lemon Cordial is not Scottish. But hang on! We do have a solid link to Scotland, we promise. You’ll have to keep reading to find it, though. 😉 

Pin for later!

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe Pin

What is Lemon Cordial?

Lemon Cordial is a delicious mix of freshly squeezed lemons, water and sugar. It mixes perfectly with water or tonic for a fresh, zesty drink that takes us back to summer picnics, sunny BBQs and happy childhood memories. 

Where does Cordial come from?

The problem with dating the first Lemon Cordial or Cordial is that the term is used for many different drinks. From fruit-based or alcoholic liqueur-based beverages to medicinal ones.

The sort of cordial we’re making requires no distilling or alcohol and claims to offer no medicinal benefits. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, what might be known in the States as syrup is known as Cordial or Squash. 

This type of cordial’s origins begins with a Scottish Doctor in 1753. (We told you there was a link) Dr James Lind examined the causes of scurvy for the British Royal Navy. He discovered lemons seemed to help, and, long story short, the navy started issuing a daily ration of limes (limes were cheaper than lemons) to curb the spread of scurvy. 

Hence us Brits being called Limeys.

But, the lime juice wouldn’t stay fresh, a real issue. Enter our second Scottish hero. Luchlin Rose from Leith discovers a way to preserve lime juice, creating Roses Lime Juice, the world’s first Lime Cordial, in 1867.

So without these two enterprising Scottish entrepreneurs, this recipe wouldn’t exist. Rose’s is still very popular and sold in shops to this day.

Phew, we got there in the end! Although this is a very condensed version of this story, it’s worth reading more about it.

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - Lemon Cordial in a jug and glass with lemons and mint next to it

What do you call it? Cordial, Squash, Diluting Juice or something else?

Certain drinks then diluted with water get called various names in different households and even countries. 

There is even the rumour that, in Scotland, it gets called diluting juice. But we can’t imagine kids asking a parent for a glass of diluting juice! 

We call the slightly syrupy versions like our Lemon Cordial recipe, Cordial and the more mass-produced versions Squash. But we 100% do not say this is the definitive answer! 

So what do you call it? Do let us know. 

Why make homemade Lemon Cordial?

Now we know this might be one of those recipes that are easier to buy in the shops, especially in the UK.

But by making it yourself, you guarantee no preservatives or artificial flavours, just a wonderfully fresh-tasting drink.

Also, this is a lovely gift if put in a nice bottle and labelled. We’ve even seen it used as a beautiful wedding favour idea, given with a miniature bottle of gin and bow! 

Things you’ll need to make Lemon Cordial

  • Lemon Juicer
  • Zester
  • Saucepan
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Clean bottle for storage

Ingredients for Lemon Cordial

  • 500ml lemon juice
  • 500ml water
  • 500g granulated sugar

This makes 1 litre of cordial, which you can mix with water (or sparkling water, soda water, etc) to make 4 litres of drink.

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - Ingredients

How much juice is in a Lemon? 

On average, a good-sized lemon has roughly 2-3 tablespoons of juice and about one tablespoon of zest. But to get this amount of zest from a lemon, you may need to watch your fingers! 

To get 500ml you’ll probably need at least 8-10 lemons, depending on their size.

How to make Lemon Cordial – Step by step method

Zest the lemons until you have approximately half a cup of zest.

Juice the lemons until you have 500ml juice.

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Remove from the mixture from the heat and stir through the zest and juice.

Return to the heat and heat until it starts to thicken.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Pass through a sieve.

Store in a clean bottle in the fridge.

Mix one part lemon cordial with three parts water to make up a drink.

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - two glasses of lemon cordial mixed with water and ice with a slice of lemon

How do you serve Lemon Cordial?

Lemon Cordial is a fantastically refreshing drink just combined with water alone. We suggest you mix it with one part cordial and three parts water. But this is very much up to you and down to your own personal tastes! 

As well as water, mixing it with tonic or soda water (sparkling water) adds a light fizz which emphasises the taste perfectly.

Lemon cordial is also an excellent addition to vodka, gin, and tonic, though we would use a little less cordial so that you don’t lose the taste of the other ingredients completely. 

All of these should be served over ice! 

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - two lemons with glass and jug of cordial behind

How to Zest a Lemon

How you zest your lemon depends on what tools you have to hand in your kitchen. Below are the easiest ways to use a few different standard kitchen tools.

Before you start zesting, ensure you have unwaxed lemons or have removed the wax. For tips on this, see further down the post.

Note: Zest your lemons before you juice them. The reason for this will become obvious once you start. There is no fun trying to zest the bits of a juiced lemon! 

With a Zester

By far the easiest way! Hold the lemon firmly and pull the zester over the skin of the lemon. Ensure two things. One – you only remove the yellow zest, not the white pith underneath. Two – WATCH YOUR FINGERS! Seriously, zesting a digit hurts! 

As you zest a section of your lemon, move it around with your hand, then pull the zester over the fresh patch of lemon skin. Do this until your lemon is all pith and no zest.

With a Cheese Grater

We don’t all own zesters, no problem. 

If you have a box cheesegrater, then you can use the smaller holed side that is perfect for testing! Use it the same way as a zester, and you’ll have a pile of zest in no time.

With a Knife or Potato Peeler

No cheese grater? Ok, this is getting trickier. You can use the sharp edge of a potato peeler or a sharp knife. WATCH YOUR FINGERS! This will give you large slices of peel, which you can then finely chop to provide you with your zest.

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - two empty glasses and lemon cordial mixed in a jug with lemons on the side

How to juice a lemon 

Juicing a lemon is easy, but here are some tricks to help you get the most out of your lemons:

  • Make sure you have nice and ripe lemons. A ripe lemon will feel a little softer when gently squeezed and feel a little heavier. 
  • Before you juice, zest! 
  • Once zested, microwave for roughly 10-20 seconds until warm. This helps break down the lemon, creating more juice.
  • To help this process, firmly roll the lemon on your kitchen worktop with the palm of your hand once warmed.
  • Once you’ve done this, cut your lemon in half and juice it. Make sure you let your juicer gather up the flesh of the fruit and its seeds. You don’t need this.

How to juice a lemon without a juicer

After you’ve heated and rolled your fruit, as above, cut them in half. 

Take one half in your hand and, over a bowl, insert a spoon and twist. This will remove the juice of the lemon and some fruit and seeds. 

Once you’ve juiced all of your lemons. Strain the juice from one bowl to another to remove the seeds and flesh of the fruit. Leaving you with everything you need to make your Lemon Cordial.

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe - a jug and a glass of lemon cordial with lemons and mint on the side

How do I store Lemon Cordial?

Once cooled, store your Lemon Cordial in a freshly sterilised bottle either in the pantry or the fridge. This will last for up to 3-4 months unopened. Once opened, store in the refrigerator and drink within 10 days in a closed-lidded bottle.

Can Lemon Cordial be frozen?

Yes, once completely cooled, store in an airtight bag or bottle. This will keep for up to a year. To use thaw fully and use on the day of defrosting.

Is Lemon Cordial the same as Homemade Lemonade?

Lemonade in the UK is generally considered to be a fizzy, lemon-flavoured drink like Sprite or 7-Up, whereas in the USA, it is a juice made of lemons, water, and sugar.

Cordial is like concentrated lemonade in the USA. Once you mix it with water, then it is like lemonade.

Can you add other flavours to Lemon Cordial? 

Yes, think of Lemon Cordial as the foundation for your drink. How you build on these foundations is up to you! 

We suggest a little fresh mint and grated ginger. Or maybe add lime juice to taste to add more citrus. 

You can add some orange juice with a little tonic to mellow the flavour while adding a little fizz.

You can even add it to tea to give a British classic a twist of lemon.

The lemons are your oyster!

Whew! Hopefully, we’ve answered all your Lemon Cordial questions… below is our recipe card and some more tips!

Yield: 1 litre

Simple Lemon Cordial Recipe

Lemon Cordial Recipe

Lemon Cordial is a delicious mix of freshly squeezed lemons, water and sugar. It mixes perfectly with water or tonic for a fresh, zesty drink that takes us back to summer picnics, sunny BBQs and happy childhood memories.

Making it yourself guarantees no preservatives or artificial flavours, just a wonderfully fresh-tasting drink.

Lemonade in the UK is generally considered to be a fizzy, lemon-flavoured drink like Sprite or 7-Up, whereas in the USA, it is a juice made of lemons, water, and sugar.

Cordial is like concentrated lemonade in the USA. Once you mix it with water, then it is like lemonade.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 500ml lemon juice
  • 500ml water
  • 500g granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Zest the lemons until you have approximately half a cup of zest.
  2. Juice the lemons until you have 500ml juice.
  3. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir through the zest and juice.
  5. Return to the heat and heat until it starts to thicken.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. Pass through a sieve.
  8. Store in a clean bottle in the fridge.
  9. Mix one part lemon cordial with three parts water to make up a drink.

Notes

This homemade lemon cordial recipe makes 1 litre of cordial, which you can mix with water (or sparkling water, soda water, etc) to make 4 litres of drink.

On average, a good-sized lemon has roughly 2-3 tablespoons of juice and about one tablespoon of zest. But to get this amount of zest from a lemon, you may need to watch your fingers!

To get 500ml you'll probably need at least 8-10 lemons, depending on their size.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 126Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 0gSugar: 32gProtein: 0g

Based on 250ml mixture of cordial and water, using 1 part cordial to three parts water. Values are approximate.

Can you use other citrus fruits for Lemon Cordial?

Yes, fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and lime are perfect. However, you must adjust the sugar level to balance other fruits.

For example, oranges are sweeter, so less sugar is required, grapefruits are more bitter, so more sugar, and limes are similar. You get the idea!

Can you make Lemon Cordial without Citric Acid?

Yes, our recipe doesn’t use citric acid. This is a preservative, and the ingredients of lemon cordial, lemons and sugar have enough preservative properties for a homemade version you intend to drink soonish.

Can you freeze lemons?

Yes, you can freeze lemons. It’s a great way to keep them and make lemon cordial out of season. 

Place the lemons in a ziplock bag and pop them in the freezer. Defrost them on the worktop and then use them as usual. 

Freezing them often creates more juice defrosted.

Homemade Lemon Cordial Recipe -  two glasses of lemon cordial garnished with lemon

What is an “unwaxed” lemon?

Lemons are often sprayed with a thin layer of wax to keep them looking fresh and shiny, plus it can help protect them from bruising. 

Before you zest your lemons, we suggest dewaxing them. 

Pop a few lemons in a colander, just enough to allow movement, so the water touches the whole surface. 

Boil your kettle. Once boiled, pour the water over your lemons. This will soften the wax sufficient that it can be removed.

Give your lemons a good scrub with a washing-up brush or nail brush.

You can, of course, just by unwaxed lemons.

Is Lemon Cordial good for you?

Our Lemon Cordial recipe is rich in vitamin C and has no preservatives or artificial flavours.

However, it is also rich in sugar, so we wouldn’t suggest drinking it as a health drink. But in moderation, it does provide some help against preventing scurvy!

Plus, if you’re mixing a small amount with water, it’s better than a fizzy drink.

Hopefully you enjoy this homemade Lemon Cordial as much as well do!

Sonja and Phil x

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