I was doing a bit of internet browsing today, and I came across this image (linked rather than embedded because of copyright), which shows a bottle of hand disinfectant along with three bottles labelled as "drink enhancer" or "liquid water enhancer".

This got me wondering: down here in Australia, we call a concentrated liquid that is added to water for flavoring "cordial", and it's quite popular with about 1 in 4 Australians drinking it at least once per month. Is there a significant difference between cordial and these drink enhancers, or is "drink enhancer" or "water enhancer" simply what Americans call cordial? Are there any differences in the food labeling regulations for them between America and Australia?


2 Answers 2


They wouldn't use the name "cordial" because it has a different meaning in the US. Over here, "cordial" is some sort of flavored alcohol, usually with a sort of connotation of something that rich people drink after dinner or as something refreshing that some rich people on a southern plantation might drink. (so it's not only alcoholic, it's classist/elitist, too)

They wouldn't use the term "squash", either, as to most Americans, that's a vegetable or maybe a sport that rich people play.


I'm not aware of any specific food labeling requirement, but the term "water enhancer" is fairly well known to Americans who go camping, drink well water, or disaster preppers. It's used as catch-all term for anything to be added to water to improve its flavor.

So it would include powdered drink mixes such as Tang and Kool-Aid, which is why I would assume they specified that it was a "liquid water enhancer" to distinguish themselves from those other things.

But in the past few years, there have been a few companies selling tiny little squirt bottles of flavorings for bottled water. (the first one that I remember seeing was Mio) They're not like liquid drink mix concentrates like what you're describing, as they're typically just a few drops to flavor a bottle (500mL) of water instead of something that's diluted around 1:5, like you would for a flavored heavy syrup.

So basically, not only does 'cordial' not mean the same thing in the US as it does in Australia, but what you're dealing with isn't exactly the same as a 'cordial' from Australia, either.

  • 1
    As an American, I definitely think of a liqueur (or a nasty dime-store cherry candy) first when you say "cordial" but here is at least one American writing about it as a non-alcoholic fruit drink concentrate: nourishedkitchen.com/cherry-cordial
    – The Photon
    Oct 1, 2020 at 18:17

Apart from in America, "cordial" is often a term for something based on sugar and fruit. It's more commonly called "squash" in the UK (but one old brand is Rose's lime cordial); in other languages the name often translats to "syrup". Many are brightly coloured, whether artificially or using various plant extracts in addition to the juice that contributes to the flavour. This has changed a bit in recent years as sugar-free varieties have become more common, and less awful.

In the meantime there's been a growth in clear flavoured water ready to drink in bottles.

The various concentrated flavourings for water that are now available aim at a slightly different market to cordial/squash/similar products, closer to the target for flavoured water but without the same plastic waste concerns. The typically sell on the hydrating benefits of the water, and any healthy claims they can imply about plant ingredients. There are even tea bags meant for adding to your (cold) water bottle. While the brands might be owned by the same multinationals, these new products tend to use the names of mineral water or tea companies.

Overall, though often very similar as you've identified, these products aim to be more upmarket and aimed at health-conscious adults (at least here in the UK, the equivalent to Australian cordial is seen as a bit of a children's drink, though widely consumed by adults).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.