How To Make Lime Cordial and Some Ideas For Things To Do With It

If you have lemons, by all means, make lemonade (see When You’re Given Lemons, Make Lemonade). But, if, for some reason, you have a glut of limes, the thing to do is make lime cordial.

Otherwise, you are much better off buying the iconic Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial…currently made in the UK by Coca Cola. Except that currently that is not available because there has been a fire at the factory….so another reason, for the moment at least, to make your own.

As a child I remember my father making Gimlets with Rose’s (it’s an essential ingredient for The Gimlet, popular during the Second World War when tonic was hard to source), and being given a gin-free lime cordial mocktail to sip so that I could feel part of the party. Rose’s lime juice cordial has a long history. It was first invented in 1867 by Lauchlan Rose. It was made, with the sugar as a preservative, and formed part of ships’ provisions to help sailors ward off scurvy. It was a case of a spoonful of sugar…and gin…helping the medicine go down. Only it wasn’t. The British used limes because they were freely available from the colonies in the Caribbean, whereas the Mediterranean sources of lemons were less reliable. But unfortunately limes are much less effective against scurvy.

They didn’t know that though, so limes were used, and hence the widespread nickname for the British as ‘limeys’.

There are two ways of making it: the first is dead simple and widely used, involving water; the second is less well known, invented by Todd Appel, involving no water at all, but a bit more effort. It’s worth the effort because the result is a denser syrup with a more intense, fresh taste of lime. To find out how to make it, follow this link to Todd Appel’s website, it’s a fascinating post, well worth reading, but the recipe for his cordial is right at the bottom – skip to that if you are in a tearing hurry. Todd’s method has the added advantage of keeping for months, so if you go down that route I would suggest making mammoth quantities.

But remembering that one of the Saucy Dressings’ fundamental values is Life-Is-Too-Short, in this post we’re going for the quick and easy approach which doesn’t involve sugar thermometers etc.

How to make a simple lime cordial

Makes about 360ml/1½ cups


  • 2 limes – juice and zest
  • 180ml/¾ cup water
  • 125g/1¼ cups caster sugar
  • rosemary or mint – optional
  • a vanilla pod – optional


  1. Zest the limes using just a sharp knife and taking the peel off in smallish strips (it’s easier to sieve later than if you use a microplane). Make sure you just take off the top green skin, avoid the bitter white pith beneath.
  2. Put the water, sugar, and lime juice together in a small, unreactive (not metal – try enameled or non-stick) saucepan, uncovered. Simmer away for ten minutes or so.
  3. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Add the lime zest, and the rosemary if you are using that. Leave to infuse for a minimum of half an hour…an hour is better. If you are using mint, just drop a sprig of mint in for the last five minutes or so.
  4. Strain through a sieve into a jug. Pour into sterilised containers and keep in the fridge for a week or so. Follow this link for how to sterilise glass containers.

Things to do with lime cordial

  • Make a mocktail – either simply mix with soda, or mix equal quantities of lime and elderflower cordials, and top with soda
  • Use as a sauce for ice cream
  • Use to cure runner beans – follow this link for how to do this
  • In a Gimlet – follow this link for how to make a Gimlet
  • Make a Red Ruby nearly-mocktail by adding a couple of dashes to lime cordial, and a couple of dashes of peach liqueur (ideally, Briottet Crème de Pêche) to some chilled cranberry juice.
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