How to Make a Love Cordial
Learn how to make herbal cordials and specifically how to make a love cordial, which is a delightful addition to a romantic date-night. Cordials are delicious drinks that are meant to be drunk in small quantities and yet can still give you some wonderful herbal wellness support. This Love Cordial combines damiana tincture, cinnamon tincture, and maple syrup for a super delicious beverage and treat.
Why I’m Making Cordials Right Now…
I’ve been busy these wintry days making lots of tinctures while my garden is mainly either asleep or on automatic (winter gardens in South Carolina are SO EASY to take care of…no pests, few weeds, and I just have to remember to cover them for bad frosts). About a year ago, I bought the book DIY Bitters: Reviving the Forgotten Flavor by Guido Mase and Jovial King, and it inspired me to make lists of all of the tinctures that I wanted to make so I could start making more creative bitters (learn the importance of bitters in your diet here).
So I made jars and jars of tinctures and then I realized that I didn’t want to use ALL of the tinctures that I made only to make bitters. I wanted to have some fun with them in other ways, too. And then, I learned about cordials.
Since February is known as a romantic month due to Valentine’s day, I thought it would be fun to make my first cordial a romantic one. And behold, my Love Cordial was created.
What Is a Cordial?
Cordials are a delicious beverage that you take in small quantities at a time. I thought this quote was perfect for defining cordials:
“Cordials are tonics meant to be taken in small amounts, typically 1 ounce doses, to strengthen the body, mind, and spirit. This comforting and pleasant-tasting medicine can be made with any tonic herbs of your choosing, including herbs to help with digestion, sleep, the heart, or general well-being. Cordials are fun to make with friends, particularly during fruit harvest times, when you can add fresh…[fruit] to create a dynamic flavor and high nutritional value.“ (The Herbal Apothecary, a book by J.J. Pursell, pg. 194).
At a very basic level, cordials are made by combining tinctures with some sort of sweetener. You can use many different types of ingredients in homemade cordials, but the most popular ingredients are herbs and/or fruit.
What is a Tincture?
Tinctures are simply extracts of herbs (or fruit…but since I’m focusing on a Love Cordial here made with only herbs and spices, I’ll be referencing herbs only in my instructions for the rest of this post) in alcohol. I’ll write a more-thorough post about tinctures in the future, but at a very basic level, you take herbs, either fresh or dried, put them in a jar and top off the jar with your preferred alcohol.
Most folks (including myself) use vodka as the alcohol, partly because of the price, and partly because it’s nice to use an alcohol that doesn’t have a strong flavor (but you can use other alcohols, too, including rum, brandy, bourbon, and gin). It’s best to use higher proof alcohols, and the most commonly used alcohols are either 80 proof or 100 proof. I prefer using a good-quality 100 proof vodka for my tinctures.
It can get complicated with different methods (folk method, math-based methods, etc.) for making the tinctures and it depends on the specific herbs you use, too, but a very common formula for making tinctures is:
- When creating tinctures with fresh herbs, try using 1 part herbs to 2 parts alcohol
- When creating tinctures with dried herbs, consider using 1 part herbs to 5 parts alcohol
This basic formula was taken from The Herbal Apothecary, a book by J.J. Pursell, pg. 220. Check out my favorite herbal resources at the bottom of this post for more great herbal books and courses for learning more about making tinctures.
What Sweeteners Can You Use in Cordials?
If you look up a lot of cordial recipes, you’ll quickly see that the most common sweetener used is sugar. There’s lots of recipes using common white sugar or using a homemade simple syrup that is made with sugar and water.
However, you can use other sweeteners besides sugar. You can also use honey or maple syrup, or even molasses if you like that extra depth of flavor. I like to avoid normal sugar whenever possible, so I like to use either local raw honey or organic maple syrup for my herbal concoctions.
For this Love Cordial, since the damiana tincture had an earthy taste to it, I thought it would blend really nice with the earthy taste of maple syrup. I added a touch of cinnamon tincture as well to smooth out the edges of the damiana tincture as well.
You can adjust the sweetness of your homemade cordial to your taste preferences (but if you use less than the amount noted in the recipe, it can shorten the shelf life of your cordial).
What is the Method For Making a Cordial?
There are actually several methods for making homemade cordials, and I found it so confusing that I kept avoiding making one because I didn’t know which method was the best. I finally just chose the one that made the most sense with my lifestyle and that’s the one I give thorough instructions for farther down in this post. However, you can choose any of these options, depending on what works best for you.
Common Cordial-Making Methods Include:
- Cordial Method #1: Making an Herbal/Fruit Simple Syrup and Mixing it with Alcohol
This is a ‘quick method’ for folks who want to try a cordial but “don’t have the time” to slowly infuse things over 3-6 weeks (like in the other two methods below). You basically simmer herbs and/or fruit with your sweetener on the stove top and create a flavored simple syrup. You can then combine this flavored simple syrup with whatever alcohol you want to use (including wine) for drinking right away.
A quick method like this is not my preferred method because I like slower projects that are full of intention over a longer time period. I’m not a ‘quick and easy’ type of gal in the kitchen. It also involves making a simple syrup, which is usually made with sugar, and like I already mentioned, I prefer avoiding sugar and using other sweeteners instead. Also, you do have to simmer a simple syrup for a bit of time, so while you aren’t waiting 3-6 weeks, you are still spending a decent amount of time in the kitchen in one setting.
- Cordial Method #2: Combining Tincture and Sweetener Immediately
This method combines the herbs/fruit, alcohol, and sweetener together right away, and then you put it in a dark and cool place and let it infuse for 4-6 weeks before straining out the herbs and fruit. This Hawthorn Cordial recipe from LearningHerbs is an example of this type of method.
I decided not to do this method because I wanted to be able to make smaller batches of cordials in order to experiment with flavors. Once I have made plenty of cordials and I’ve decided on my favorite combination of sweeteners, herbs/fruit, and alcohol, then I might change to this method.
I also had lots of tinctures already made and wanted to put them to good use, so using Method #3 (below) also made more sense for me right now.
- Cordial Method #3: Making a Tincture First and Then Adding a Sweetener Later
This method is great for letting you make simple tinctures and letting them infuse in a dark and cool place for 2-6 weeks, and then combining them with sweeteners for drinking and future storage.
This is the method I chose, because it sounded perfect for making small batches of cordials in order to figure out my favorite combinations. For example, I decided to mix my damiana tincture with maple syrup due to their earthy tastes. When I taste-tested the cordial afterwards, it was good, but I knew it would be even MORE tasty with a tiny bit of cinnamon tincture added to it to smooth out the earthy-ness a bit. I added a little, tasted, and then added a bit more until it was perfect.
What You Need to Know About Love Cordials…
Love Cordials and liqueurs have been made with the damiana herb for a VERY long time. According to the very amazing Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, “it is thought to replenish sexual vitality. Its nervine and toning properties make it a good general herb for the nervous system as well as a relaxant and antidepressant. It is especially helpful for those who feel ‘sexually inadequate,’ as it helps the body relax, releases tension, and allows the body to feel more comfortable.” Herbal Healing for Men: Remedies & Recipes, by Rosemary Gladstar, pg. 172).
While Damiana is generally considered a safe herb, it should be avoided by those with bladder or kidney issues and also avoided by pregnant or nursing women. And now for the very-necessary-these-days modern warning: I am not a doctor, PLEASE do your own research (and/or talk to a doctor) about your own health and also research the damiana herb before using, etc.
I also wanted to add some extra info here about romance and love. A Love Cordial will not fix your relationship nor will drinking mean that you will have 100% improvement to your libido. I know that in our modern culture, we’re always looking for a “quick fix” for any issue in our lives. I hate to break it to you, but there are MANY components to a healthy libido and it can take a while to make last improvements to your sexual libido health.
Here’s a great section from my favorite health/herbal book about the topic: “[For low libido], eat a healthy whole-foods diet…stress management, mind-body balance, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and communication and connection with your partner are all important! Think of your libido as a muscle. If it’s been awhile, you might need to do a few practice runs to get things back into gear. Enlisting the aid of a specialized therapist may also help.” (Body Into Balance, by Maria Noel Groves, pg. 254).
While this Love Cordial is super tasty and has some romantic components to it, there are plenty of other things you need to do to “set the mood” and/or improve libido. Consider adding it to your date night, with candles, soft music, quiet/no distractions, healthy conversation, good food, etc., and that type of intention will go a long way to helping you have a lovely evening with your partner.
Love Cordial Recipe
- Dried Damiana leaf
- Cinnamon Bark chips
- 80 or 100 proof alcohol (I used vodka)
- Sweetener of Choice (I used maple syrup)
- Make your two separate tinctures: use two clean mason jars. Use approximately 1 part dried herb/spice to 5 parts alcohol. You do not need very much cinnamon tincture for this recipe, so if you’re not using it for anything else, you might want to make a very small jar of cinnamon tincture.
- Put a lid on each jar and label it with the contents and the date. Store them in a cool and dark place to allow it to infuse for 2-4 weeks.
- Every 1-2 days, gently shake the jars and try to make sure the ingredients are covered by alcohol (top off your jar with more alcohol if necessary).
- After 2-4 weeks, strain your tinctures with a fine mesh strainer into two clean (separate) jars.
- Prepare your cordial: use another clean jar and combine whatever amount of your damiana tincture you would like to use (you can save your remaining damiana tincture for future products) with your preferred sweetener (I used maple syrup). The ratio of tincture to sweetener is: 1 part tincture to ½ part sweetener. Example: 2 cups tincture and 1 cup of sweetener.
- Add your cinnamon tincture: Add just enough cinnamon tincture to help smooth out the earthy edges of the Love Cordial. Taste and adjust to your taste buds. I ended up adding approximately 1 Tbsp. of cinnamon tincture per 1 cup of damiana cordial. Add more sweetener to properly fix the ratio of tincture to sweetener (1 part tincture to ½ part sweetener).
- Mix well. Adjust the sweetness to your preference. Store in a tightly sealed jar in a cool and dark location.
**Don’t forget to label things! And either put the date on the label or on your calendar. It’s amazing how quickly your mind can forget which tincture you’ve made and when it’s ready for use….
**Usually, herbal tinctures take about 4-6 weeks until they are ready for use, however, according to instructions for both damiana tincture and cinnamon tincture from DIY Bitters: Reviving The Forgotten Flavor by Guido Mase and Jovial King, both of these two tinctures take only about 2 weeks until they are ready for use.
**You might need to gently heat up your sweetener, depending on the time of year and what type of sweetener you use. Just don’t use high heat, which can cancel the medicinal benefits of either your tincture or your sweetener (if using raw honey).
**If you keep the ratio of tincture to sweetener at: 1 part tincture to ½ part sweetener and you store it in a dark and cool location, your cordial can last about 1 year.
How to Serve Herbal Cordials
Cordials are best for slow sipping and intentional relaxation (whether by a cozy fireplace in the winter or lounging in a hammock in your backyard in the summer). You can simply enjoy your homemade cordial in a small glass, ranging from 1 to 4 ounce servings.
You can also serve them warm for a winter treat or add them to a tall glass with some club soda or bubbling water or tonic water and some ice in the summer for a cool and bubbly treat. Try 1 to 3 teaspoons of the cordial in approximately 1 cup of sparkling water as a ratio for your summer cordials.
I wouldn’t add this Love Cordial to club soda, as it’s a very rich, spicy, earthy cordial that’s perfect for winter drinking. We drink our Love Cordial at room temperature, but it could be really good warmed up or possibly even added to some Bailey’s-type alcohol for a creamy dessert drink.
It could also be really fun to make a creative martini-type drink with the Love Cordial as the base ingredient. Try adding something like chocolate syrup to it, too. That could be really tasty.
Other Herbal Cordial Combinations
There are SO many delicious cordial recipes that I want to try in the future. Here are a few other cordial recipe ideas to inspire you (and me):
- Lemon Balm Cordial (my recipe! This is a super delicious combo of lemon balm tincture and honey.)
- Spiced Winter Cordial (my recipe! This is a delicious woodsy and spiced cordial for enjoying during the winter months)
- Cherry Cordial (you can use this recipe and switch to other fruits, too. I like the idea of making raspberry cordial and pretending I’m Anne of Green Gables).l
- Hawthorn Cordial (great for the heart!)
- Winter Cordials (three recipes that use winter flavors or herbs/plants you can forage in the winter)
- Digestive Cordial (combine anise seed, fennel seed, and coriander seeds for a digestive cordial…I already make digestive bitters and fennel tincture so it would be easy for me to expand into digestive cordials)
- Ginger Peach (mix ginger root and peach slices together…sounds great for the summer!)
You can be so creative with your herb, spice, and fruit combinations for making homemade cordials that are both delicious and give you some sort of health boosts. Please feel free to share your cordial recipes with me in the comments below!
Where to Learn More About Using Herbs
I am passionate about learning how to use herbs, both medicinally and for culinary use. It’s so amazing to me to think that we have such potent plants right at our fingertips! Here are some of my favorite herb resources:
- Herbal Academy Courses: I am blown away by how amazing their herbal courses are! Gain confidence in your herbal adventures by taking one of their courses. I LOVE their Intermediate Herbal Course.
- Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar: This book started me on my journey toward loving herbs and natural remedies. I still use this book first for all of my herbal adventures.
- Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care by Maria Noel Groves: This book is my second most-used herbal books. I LOVE this book. The information is easy to read and I continue to be fascinated by it. It pairs really well with the Herbal Academy Intermediate Course.
- The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them by JJ Pursell: This book is a great quick-reference read for info on specific herbs and I love that there are so many pictures in it.
- DIY Bitters: Reviving The Forgotten Flavor by Guido Mase and Jovial King: This is my newest book and it’s been fantastic for learning new tincture/bitters recipes. I was super inspired in my tincture adventures due to the recipes in this book.