What Is a Cordial Drink? All You Need To Know (2023)

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

If you’re a bartender wannabe or have been very interested in mixed drinks, you most probably have come across cordial drinks. 

But did you know that long before it’s been used as a cocktail mixer, cordials were used for medicinal purposes? 

So really, what is a cordial drink? If you want to find out, keep reading. 

Cordial Drink: What Is It?

Bottle of Homemade Lime Cordial and a Glass of Cocktail Drink

A cordial drink is one of the most diverse and extensive categories of spirits.

It is made by redistilling or mixing neutral spirits like brandy and rum with herbs, fruits, and cream. 

A cordial is also known as a liqueur, a flavored and sweetened liquor, except in the UK, where it is a sweet but non-alcoholic liquid.

It is a versatile drink that offers limitless possibilities.

Some of the oldest cordials are sweet medicinal used for ailments, and while it was a popular mixer for cocktails, they can be consumed neat. 

Read: Cordial vs Liqueur

Why Is A Drink Called A Cordial? 

The drink is called cordial because it was derived from the word “cordialis,” meaning “of or for the heart.”  

Cordials were initially made in Europe with distilled spirits and herbs, flowers, fruits, oils, nuts, and seeds to treat ailments. 

Today, cordials are casually consumed for enjoyment, leading to the use of the word “liqueur” instead of “cordial.” 

Does Cordial Contain Alcohol? 

Grapefruit Cordial on a Glass Jar

Yes, cordial contains alcohol, except in the UK. Cordials or liqueurs fall anywhere between 10 – 30% ABV. 

Cordial producers use neutral spirits which contain alcohol, but due to the flavoring agents and sugar, many cordials are low-proof spirits. 

“Our consumers value the natural credentials of our products and don’t want an artificially sweetened product,”

– Amanda Grabham, Marketing Director of a Cordial brand

For instance, Grand Marnier and Cointreau contain around 40% ABV, while Peppermint Schnapps is around 15% ABV. 

In the UK, a cordial drink is known as squash, a sweetened, non-alcoholic fruit syrup [1]. 

Is Cordial The Same As Liqueur? 

Yes, cordial is similar to liqueur. Cordials and liqueur can be interchanged (except for the UK). It is typically known as a sweetened or lower-proof distilled spirit. 

Liqueur and cordial’s ingredients are distilled spirits, flavorings, and sweeteners [2].

Both are sweet with a specific flavor and can be served in cocktails, straight up, in shots, and on the rocks. 

Compared To Other Drinks 

Ginger Lime Cordial and a Glass of Cocktail Drink


Tonic gives a bitter taste because it contains quinine and botanicals as the key ingredient, while cordial has a sweet and distinct flavoring. 

Tonic does not contain alcohol, unlike cordial. If you are familiar with tonic water, it is often used as a cocktail mixer (Gin and Tonic).


Juice is a mixed drink with a wide selection, but unlike cordial, it does not contain alcohol. Juice can be sweet or tasty, depending on its flavorings. 

Moreso, the juice is widely used in cocktail drinks as a non-alcoholic mixer, but you can enjoy it alone. 


Syrup is a thick sweet liquid made using boiling sugar in water and is often used for preserving fruit. 

Like cordial, the syrup is sweet but does not contain alcohol because it infuses flavors in boiling water and not distilled spirit. 

The syrup is often used as a mixer and not consumed on its own because of its very sweet taste. 

What Is It Used For? 

Bartender Making Lime Cordial

A cordial drink is frequently used as a drink mixer because it contains sweetness that can counteract bitterness and other ingredients. 

Depending on their flavors, cordials, and liqueurs seamlessly blend when mixed in cocktails.

Cosmopolitans, Margaritas, and Mai Tai are classic cocktail drinks that use cordials. 

But before it became a popular mixer, cordial was widely used as a medical tonic.

If prepared with medicinal herbs, cordials can be a tasty medicine that can cure different ailments. 

Also, it can be used as a digestif to aid digestion. 

How Do You Serve A Cordial Drink?

A cordial drink is widely served as a digestif and great to serve with dessert because of its sweet nature.

You can serve cordials in small cordial glasses and drink them straight, but you can add ice or chill the bottle to improve its taste.

For the most part, cordial drinks are used in cocktails because they add sweetness to the drink. There are countless recipes where you can use cordial. 


Do you drink cordial straight?

Yes, you can drink cordial straight. Cordial is a versatile spirit; its sweetness makes it an enjoyable drink.

However, some cordials are perfect for cocktails. 

When should you drink cordials?

Drinking cordials after the meal will be best as they can be a digestif and best paired with a dessert. 

Since it contains alcohol, we don’t recommend drinking it on an empty stomach because it can make you get drunk faster. 

In Summary

Cordial is a flavored, distilled spirit that is usually sweet and contains low alcohol.

It is made by mixing neutral spirits with herbs, fruits, and other flavorings. 

Cordials are synonymous with liqueur. You can consume them as digestives, enjoy them on their own, consume them on the rocks, or mixed in cocktails. 



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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