Highland and other cordials

As well as meaning both friendly and strongly felt, cordial also mean a concentrated fruit drink which you dilute to your preferred strength – I like mine very weak. Cordial can also be a medicine, usually a pleasant or sweet one, but I think that must be very old usage. In fact in terms of usage, cordial is taking a bit of a dive; acceding to a table recording usage in a certain amount of books, it reached a high point in the 1850’s and has been in decline ever since. There’s been somewhat of an upsurge recently, from 1994, its nadir (which was an answer in the quiz a couple of days ago) it’s now had a slight increase in usage. Maybe old-fashioned recipes are coming back, maybe as people drink less alcohol they’re reaching for juices and squashes and cordials to refresh – especially what you might call unusual flavours. Elderflower and rhubarb, mint and cucumber, lime and mint, ginger and lemongrass, raspberry and rhubarb and orange blossom…

In Ambrose Heath’s 1952 book on homemade wines and liqueurs, there is a whole section on cordials, and I think everyone is alcoholic!

  • aniseed
  • blackberry
  • black currant
  • caraway
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • cranberry
  • damson
  • ginger
  • gooseberry
  • Highland
  • plum
  • raspberry

I think you can probably guess one of the ingredients in Highland cordial!

Highland cordial

  • 1 pint white currents (stripped)
  • 1 bottle Scotch
  • 1 tsp ginger essence
  • thinly peeled rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 lb sugar
  • mix all the ingredients except the sugar and leave for two days
  • strain and add the sugar
  • allow the sugar to dissolve completely (about 24 hours)
  • bottle and cork
  • ready to drink in 3 months

I’m not sure I would waste a bottle of whisky on something which might not taste very nice… I wonder if you have to bruise or crush the currants?



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