Traditional Lemon Cordial

Having come to Australia around 4 million years ago from their origins in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, citrus trees have become a staple of the quintessential Aussie garden, and whether it’s orange, grapefruit, mandarin, cumquat, lime, native lime, or the humble lemon, you’d be hard-pushed to drive down a suburban street and not see at least one tree proudly centred in the front lawn.

There’s usually a time around late winter/early spring where you’ll start seeing lemons everywhere: a bowl at the op-shop counter, a tub at the library, a washing basket in the office tea-room, a box on the neighbour’s nature strip. It’s a sign that citrus season is upon us and it’s time to pull out all the recipes you can so you can catch and store all that lovely energy from the sun to use throughout the year. There are SO many great things you can do with citrus:

As if lemon’s aren’t sour enough…

This homemade cordial recipe is simple to make, and has a wonderful tartness to it that you just don’t get in commercially bought cordials. This comes from the citric and tartaric acid, which act as both preserving agents and souring factors. Tartaric acid has become increasingly difficult to source since the prime Aussie merchant McKenzie’s stopped supplying the two major supermarket chains, but you can still find it at IGA and Foodworks supermarkets. Alternatively, if you live close to a winemaking or brewing shop, you’re likely to find it there, as it’s an ingredient used in making some fermented alcoholic drinks. If you simply can’t get your hands on any, just replace it with the same amount of citric acid.

Our homemade cordial is shelf-stable for at least a couple of years if it’s prepared and stored properly, so make use of your winter harvest and put up a good supply to see you through the summer! To store preserves properly, it’s imperative to get your head around sterilising jars and bottles. It’s not hard, so don’t worry!

Reused wine and spirit bottles and lids having a good old hot, soapy bath

The Urban Nanna’s Citrus Homemade Cordial

Makes roughly 3x 700ml wine bottles worth


6-8 well-washed lemons or other citrus fruit (enough to yield 1cup/250ml juice)

2kg white sugar

1L water

15g citric acid

15g tartaric acid

Rind/zest of 2 lemons, in strips or grated


  1. Peel all citrus and put aside zest
  2. Squeeze and strain citrus juice. Put aside
  3. Dissolve sugar in water on medium heat
  4. Boil gently until liquid has turned clear
  5. Take off the heat
  6. Add acids and stir to dissolve
  7. Add juice. Stir well
  8. Take bottles out of oven and divide a bit of citrus rind evenly amongst them. Freeze or dry the rest
  9. Pour cordial into sterilised bottles and seal while hot

Once cooled, give each bottle a good shake to mix the zest in properly, then store in a cool dark spot. Even once opened, this homemade cordial doesn’t need to live in the fridge – in fact it tends to crystalise and becomes impossible to get out of the bottle if you try!

So there you have it: simple citrus homemade cordial. A perfect longterm solution for excess citrus, and a brilliant way to catch and store energy to enjoy throughout the year. Try it with some soda water for a homemade soft-drink; make icy poles out of diluted cordial; mix the best G&Ts in town by adding a dash at the end; and be sure to pop aside a couple of bottles for the festive season – you’ll be delighted all over again as the weather really starts to heat up!

Pele 2: Catch & store energy; 3: Obtain a yield

Here are some more ideas for using up a glut of citrus….

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Vi says:

    Yay, thanks for sharing. Now I’ve found your site. I’m going to explore.

    1. My pleasure Vi! Glad you’ve found some things useful 🙂 xo

  2. Jenny and Chris Eales says:

    Is the 250ml of juice the total amount of juice required for this recipe?

    1. Hi Jenny,
      That’s right! 🙂

  3. Ban Shammas says:

    What is this tartaric acid? And from where can I buy it? And can I just use the citric acid alone?

    1. Hi!
      I do mention that in the notes of this recipe 🙂
      Yes, you can just use citric acid instead, as tartaric acid is becoming harder to source in Australia these days.

      Nanna Anna

  4. Meredith says:

    Thank you for sharing! Are the acids necessary for preserving? How long do you think it would be shelf-stable if they were left out?

    1. Hi Meredith,
      Apologies for the delay!
      Given the amount of sugar added to this recipe, it’s not imperative to have added acids, so if you’re just looking to make a small batch that’ll be used up within a month, I’d suggest it’ safe to leave them out. If making a larger batch to store for longer, I’d advise including citric acid at the very least 🙂


  5. How long does it last for?

    1. Hi there!
      Because of the very high sugar content, this syrup can last almost indefinitely when left in a cool, dark spot (I don’t put mine in the fridge, because the sugar syrup is so saturated with sugar that it recrystalises if it gets too cold).

  6. Carol Collins says:

    Thank you so much for the lemon cordial recipe 😋 my mother in law always made it…now she’s passed,
    I wished I’d watched her make it instead of just grabbing a bottle every summer time 🙏 god bless her..
    So thank you again, love your work….

    1. My pleasure Carol! I’m glad it’s brought back some positive memories. 🙂

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