Northwest-grown sweet cherries, with their vibrant flavor and fresh sweetness, make the perfect cherry cordial. Rich with cherries and touched by top notes of cardamom and ginger, this cordial is lovely swirled into sparkling water and served over ice or added to a summer cocktail.
What is cherry cordial?
A cordial is a concentrated sweet drink made with fruit, herbs, and sugar. Accordingly, cherry cordial is made with cherries, and this version finds a boost of flavor from cardamom, ginger, and lemon. Like brandied cherries and noyaux, an extract made from almond and cherry pits, cherry cordial has an old-fashioned sort of charm.
Traditionally, cordials were taken as medicine. Their sweetness made medicinal herbs more pleasant to take. Now, they're primarily drunk less for their medicine and more for their robust, fruit-forward flavor, and the way they can refresh the spirit on hot summer days.
When making a cordial, pick plump Northwest-grown sweet cherries with a deep red color. Their flesh should be firm without hardness, and yield ever-so-slightly when you gently press the fruit between your fingertips. That delicate firmness signals the presence of sweetness, while a rich color brings big flavor.
The Pacific Northwest, known for its temperate climate, grows more cherries than any other region. Early varieties arrive at grocery stores in June, while the season peaks in July and lasts until August. You can freeze or dry cherries to preserve them, but this cordial also keeps well in the fridge or freezer.
Tips for making cherry cordial
Making a cherry cordial is straightforward and simple. There's no need to pit the cherries or remove their stems, and as long as you can put a pot on the stove to boil, you can make this recipe. There are still a few simple steps that you can take to ensure your cordial comes out perfect each time you make it.
- It's okay to use cherries with pits and stems. Since you'll strain the cordial, there's no need to remove the pits or stems.
- Sweeten the cordial after straining. Adding sugar to the boiling fruit may thicken the cordial, so add it only once you've strained the liquid.
- Don't skimp on the sugar. While it's tempting to drop the sugar in this recipe, remember that it acts as a preservative. Lowering the sugar content will lower the shelflife of your cordial.
- Add lemon for flavor (and to preserve the cordial). Most commercial cordials use citric acid to help preserve them, but lemon juice can help extend the life of your cordial to about 6 weeks.
Swap honey for sugar. This recipe uses whole, unrefined cane sugar which is a mineral-rich sweetener. You can also substitute honey for sugar, using 1 ½ cups honey in place of 2 cups sugar.
Swap vanilla for cardamom and ginger. Vanilla also blends beautifully with sweet cherries. Instead of using ginger and cardamom, split 2 vanilla beans and add them to the cherries instead.
Blend the cordial with vinegar to make a shrub. Shrubs, like this version that uses raspberries and hibiscus, are sweet-tart drinking vinegars. You can blend the cordial with an equal amount of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar to make a shrub.
Blend the cordial with brandy or rum. If you add high-proof alcohol to the cordial in equal parts, you can make a delicious cherry eau-de-vie.