Homemade cordials, usually a mixture of distilled liquor and fruit or other flavors, were popular in America from the 17th through the 19th centuries. They were used both for medicinal purposes and to drink simply for pleasure. While in the later 19th century commercially-made cordials became popular for use in cocktails, earlier cordials like this 1828 recipe would have been served on their own as after-dinner digestives.
Mint Cordial (one fourth of original recipe):
- 3 small handfuls of mint, divided
- 1 cup brandy
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 pound sugar
- Wash and drain 1 small handful of mint.
- Put the mint in a container with 1 cup of brandy, cover, and let it steep overnight.
- Remove the mint the next day and replace with a fresh bunch.
- Repeat this one more day.
- After three days, strain the brandy through a cheesecloth or filter to remove any small particles.
- Mix the brandy with 3 cups of water and 1/4 pound sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bottle and store in a cool place, preferably the refrigerator (I unfortunately left my cordial in a very warm cabinet, then forgot about it. I was reminded of its existence about a month later when the cork blew off! It would probably last much longer in the refrigerator).
- Serve in tiny glasses.
My boyfriend described this as being like “a pre-mixed mint julep.” The mint flavor is pretty subtle; you could steep the mint for longer to get a stronger mint flavor, but I think the delicate mint flavor works perfectly without being overwhelming. The balance of brandy, sugar, and water seemed just right too. This is an excellent little liquor for after-dinner sipping.
Caufman, C.K. (2004). Cordials, historical. In A. F. Smith, (Ed.), The Oxford encyclopedia of food and drink in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Randolph, M. (1828). The Virginia housewife, or, methodical cook. Baltimore: Plaskitt & Cugle. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009013102