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Cordials are sweet, non-alcoholic liquids used in cocktails and other beverages. Products made from fruit juice, sugar and water, Cordials often contain plant, root or spice extracts. Less concentrated than syrups, with a lower percentage of sugar, they are used in the same way, most often diluted with water before being consumed, or mixed in cocktails. The Cordials reveal the acidity of the fruits and the honeyed character of the ingredients that go into its composition. In cocktails, they act as a binder between the different elements.

Cordials - the ingredient of the moment

In the shadow of gin, mezcal and amaro, cordials made the comeback of the century. Without a marketing budget, because they are generally homemade, they are nevertheless today the secret stars of the speed-rack. Current Barkeeper of the Year Victor Topart talks about the ingredient of the moment.

Victor TopartJuly 16, 2022

What a pleasure to talk to you about cordials in the following lines, because it is a varied, complex and sometimes even a little vague category. Let's go back to their origin.

They were already used behind the bar in the 18th century and after an era where they almost disappeared from the radar, they have made a comeback in our cocktails thanks to modern bartenders and their creativity around the trend of homemade ingredients.

History seems to be repeating itself, but in this case, we are far, very far from the Lime Cordial that was gathering dust on the shelf of bottles waiting to be used for a potential Gimlet.

But what is a cordial? Well, the answer is not so easy to find, but let's clear this up in detail. Because there is already a big difference between the British definition and the American definition!

On the other side of the Atlantic, a cordial is generally a spirit, sweetened and flavored with all kinds of fruits, plants or spices. At the time, they were attributed medicinal properties. The American cordial therefore corresponds more to our conception of the liqueur.

More syrup than liqueur

On the old continent, the definition required above all an alcohol-free preparation, but it was also attributed medicinal properties. On our side of the Atlantic, a cordial is therefore more like a syrup made from fresh fruit juice and sugar, but without the addition of water.

Nowadays, a cordial can be easily made (like a syrup) from plants, fruits, spices, water, and sugar. A little acid is usually added, in the form of citric acid or any other source of acid, but it is not necessary. But the acidity brings another advantage than the freshness, because it allows to keep the cordial longer.

But acidity has another advantage besides freshness, as it allows the cordial to keep longer.

As if those two different definitions weren't misleading enough, there are still similar products out there with a different name. An example: squash. This is a very British invention and, as far as I remember, I have never encountered them in Switzerland. Still, it helps to know the difference. By definition, a squash is a cordial.

It is alcohol-free, made from sugar and water, mixed with fruit juice concentrate. It is used to flavor a beer or quite simply instead of a syrup. Compared to cordial, it is generally thinner or less syrupy.

That's why cordials are so popular today

As we can see, this term has several possible definitions, recipes and uses. But how can these definitions be reduced to their simplest expression? It wouldn't be wrong to say that all cordials are syrups, but not all syrups are cordials. Cordials are more complex in their preparation and often also in their aroma.

With a cordial, it is not necessary to respect the 1:1 or 2:1 ratio between sugar and water as with syrup. Indeed, in a cordial, we seek an individual balance between taste, sweetness and acidity. This makes the whole story more complex, but also much more fun when crafting.

At a time when pre-mixed cocktails are increasingly setting the pace behind the bar, cordials are a must-have for anyone who wants to make a drink at lightning speed, without however wanting to compromise on the quality.

A spirit mixed with a cordial and optionally complemented by a juice or a filler is enough to satisfy the taste buds of the most demanding customers.

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