Simple syrup is a staple of cocktails, an essential sweetener that helps balance out drinks. Syrup is easier to mix into drinks because it is already in a liquid form. Sugar doesn’t dissolve well into alcohol, but dissolves relatively easily in water. (That’s why you’ll find bars that use a sugar cube in an Old Fashioned putting a few drops of water in the glass before muddling the cube.)
Besides for cocktails, I also use it to sweeten my iced coffee. Here’s two ways to make it:
- Hot Water Method
There are two common formulas for simple syrup: 2:1 sugar to water and 1:1 sugar to water. 2:1 is the standard. To make this, slowly heat 1 cup of water and two cups of sugar in a saucepan and stir until all the sugar is dissolved (no need to boil it). If you are using white sugar, the syrup should be clear. Let it cool and store it in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge. It should last a few weeks.Variations: If you prefer the 1:1 ratio for thinner syrup, only use one cup of sugar instead of two. Try using different kinds of sugar to get different flavors. Plain white sugar works fine, but dark brown sugar, turbinado, and others create interesting results that you’ll want to try out in your cocktails.
- Studio Neat Simple Syrup Kit
The fine folks at Studio Neat make an easy-to-use Simple Syrup kit that makes the process even easier. Fill the water and sugar up to the correct lines, shake, and let the sugar dissolve. I don’t have one, but this video makes it look pretty cool and easy.
If you are interested in flavoring your simple syrups, you only add few more steps to the process: Cook down your fresh fruit or spices with the sugar and water, let it cool, then strain before bottling.
I’ve made plum, pomegranate, and mint flavored syrups in the past year, and my friend Katie Rose over at Imprecise Mix made a prickly pear syrup that I want to try. Making flavored syrups is a great way to use up ripe fruit before it goes bad, and a good way to add interesting flavors to your cocktails. Pomegranate seems to work well with the juniper and lime flavors in a gin & tonic, and plum syrup works well in a gin fizz.