How to Make Cordials (Liqueurs) - Vintage Recipes and Cookery (2024)

A cordial (liqueur) is a sweetened alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit, and sweetened with various fruits and spices. Most cordials aren’t aged long. In the 1800s, some cordials were also used as family medicine.


Pick the mint early in the morning while the dew is on it. Do not bruise it. Pour some water over it and then drain it off. Put two handfuls of mint in a pitcher with a quart of French brandy. Cover and let it stand till the next day. Take out the mint carefully and put in as much more, then take that out the next day. Add fresh mint a third time, taking it out the following day. Then add three quarts water and one pound loaf sugar* to the brandy. Mix well and when perfectly clear, bottle it.

*loaf sugar – sugar sold in a hard block, which has to be broken and then pounded into sugar granules.

Cut six fresh lemons into thin slices, then put them into one and one-half quarts milk. Boil it until the whey* is very clear, then pass it through a sieve. Put to this whey one and one-half quarts of French brandy and three pounds of powdered loaf sugar. Stir it till the sugar is dissolved, let it stand to clarify, and bottle it. Pare some of the yellow rind of the lemons very thin, and put a little in each bottle.

*whey the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained.

Take the ripest and most juicy free-stone peaches you can procure. Cut them from the stones,* and quarter them without paring. Crack the stones and extract the kernels, which must be blanched and slightly pounded. Put the peaches into a large stone jar in layers, alternately with layers of the kernels, and of powdered loaf sugar. When the jar is three parts full of the peaches, kernels, and sugar, fill it up with white brandy. Set the jar in a large pan, and leave it uncovered for three or four days, in case of its fermenting and flowing over at the top. Fill up what is thus wasted with more brandy, and then close the jar tightly. Let it stand five or six months, then filter it and bottle for use.

Cherry, apricot, and plum cordial may be made in the above manner; adding always the kernels.

*stones – the shell or pit of a fruit that contains a kernel

To each quart of ripe red raspberries, put one quart of best French brandy. Let it remain about a week, then strain it through a sieve or bag, pressing out all the liquid. When you have got as much as you want, reduce the strength to your taste with water. Put a pound of powdered loaf sugar to each gallon and let it stand till clarified.

Hull a sufficient quantity of ripe strawberries and squeeze them through a linen bag. To each quart of the juice, allow a pint of white brandy and half a pound of powdered loaf-sugar. Put the liquid into a glass jar and let it stand a fortnight.* Then filter it through a sieve, to the bottom of which a piece of fine muslin or blotting paper has been fastened. Afterward, bottle it.

*fortnight – a period of two weeks.

To one quart juice, put one pound loaf sugar and boil these together fifteen minutes. When cool, add one gill* of brandy, and one tablespoon mixed of mace, cloves, and allspice powdered. Bottle and cork tightly.

*gill or jill – a liquid measurement of four ounces in the U.S. and five ounces in the U.K.

Take nice, ripe quinces,* wipe off the fur, and grate them. Express the juices of the quince pulp through a strong cloth, and to each quart of it put two-thirds quart of French brandy, a pound and a half of white sugar, a hundred bitter almonds* or peach meats, and a dozen cloves. Put it in a stone pot, cover it tightly, and keep it a week in a warm place. Then skim and bottle it, and let it remain a year before using it.

*quince – a fruit that is yellow when ripe, but with an astringent taste and not edible when eaten raw.
*bitter almonds – a variety of almond with a bitter taste sometimes used as flavoring or in oils. The almond variety sold by the food industry today is the sweet almond.

Take half a bushel of berries, well mashed, one-quarter pound of allspice (pulverized), and two ounces cloves (pulverized). Mix and boil slowly till done. Then strain through homespun or flannel, and add one pound white sugar to each pint of juice. Boil again and when cool, add half a gallon best brandy. Good for diarrhea or dysentery. The dose is one teaspoonful or more according to age.

Melt a pound of loaf sugar in two quarts of water. Mix it with two quarts of white brandy, and add a tablespoon of oil of aniseed. Let it stand a week, then filter it through white blotting paper and bottle it for use.

Crush one quart red currants and strain them through a clean, coarse cloth over one pound loaf sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the juice of one lemon, one-half pint best whiskey, and two tablespoons ground ginger, fresh and strong. Put all into a stone jug and set upon the cellar floor for a week, shaking up vigorously every day. At the end of that time, strain through a cloth, and bottle. Seal and wire the corks, and lay the bottles on their sides in a cool, dry place.

An excellent summer drink is made by putting two tablespoons of this mixture into a goblet of iced water. It is far safer for quenching the thirst when one is overheated, than plain ice-water or lemonade.

Take the young sprouts of smallage,* wash and drain them till perfectly dry. Cut them into small pieces and put them in a bottle, with stoned* raisins, a layer of each alternately. When the bottle is two-thirds full, pour in French brandy. Cork it up, let it remain three or four days, to have the smallage absorb the brandy—then put in as much more brandy as the bottle will hold. It will be fit for use in the course of eight or ten days. This is an excellent family medicine.

*smallage – wild celery
to remove the stones of fruit, such as the seeds in raisins and plums.
*stone – removing the seeds. Raisins and plums were sold with the seeds in the 1800s

To every pound of white currants stripped from the stalks and bruised, put the very thin rind of a large fresh lemon, and a quarter of an ounce of ginger, well pounded and sifted. Pour on this one quart of good old whiskey. Mix the whole up thoroughly, and let it stand for twenty-four hours in a new well-scalded stone pitcher or deep crock, covered closely from the air. Strain it off and stir in it, until dissolved, a pound and a quarter of pounded sugar. Strain it again and bottle it. This is an Irish receipt*, and is given without variation from the original.

*receipt – recipe

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How to Make Cordials (Liqueurs) - Vintage Recipes and Cookery (1)How to Make Cordials (Liqueurs) - Vintage Recipes and Cookery (2)

Hue Colored Shot Glass Set, 6 Piece Shot GlassesHow to Make Cordials (Liqueurs) - Vintage Recipes and Cookery (3)


This shot glasses set includes 6 two-ounce shot glasses which feature bottoms sprayed in blue, purple, yellow, green, red and pink to create a cool stylish, and fun look to your in-home bar.


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