Ever tried to stir sugar into iced coffee? Great way to feel like a failure, right? While sugar crystals easily dissolve in hot liquids, they don’t play well with cold or even room temperature liquids–that’s where simple syrups come to the rescue. Though some cocktail recipes direct you to muddle sugar with fruit or herbs, most use some type of simple syrup to add the necessary sweetness in a way that mixes well with the other ingredients.
Easy to make, they’re also fun to play around with because any syrup can be flavored with fruit (like our Blackberry Syrup), herbs, or spices by steeping the ingredients in the water (like tea) and straining them out before adding the sugar to make the syrup. You can even replace the water with juice (like Grenadine, which uses pomegranate juice) or other liquids (beer!).
Simple syrup is a 1:1 syrup made from sugar and water. Boil 1 cup of water, stir in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves, and you’ll end up with approximately 1-1/2 cups of syrup. Simple, right?
Rich simple syrup is a 2:1 syrup made from sugar and water. Boil 1 cup of water, stir in 2 cups of sugar until it dissolves, and you’ll end up with a little more than 1-1/2 cups of rich syrup. In cocktails, rich syrup is often used to add texture as well as sweetness, so you experience a fuller mouthfeel. Most recipes call for less rich syrup (usually no more than 1 to 2 bar spoons) than they would simple syrup.
If you want to make a flavored syrup, it’s usually best to use the simple 1:1 ratio because it allows the fruit, veg, herb, or spice to shine through better. You can make the syrup, steep the other ingredients in the syrup until it cools, and then strain the ingredients out. Or, a slightly easier (and less messy) option is to first flavor the water by steeping the ingredients in simmering water until it reaches the flavor intensity you want; then you strain out the ingredients and use the now flavored water to make the syrup.
Do You Have to Use Sugar?
No. If you prefer honey or agave, you can substitute either one for sugar. For some reason a lot of honey syrup recipes use two parts honey to one part water, but you can still follow the simple 1:1 ratio if you want. Try it both ways and see which you prefer. The one thing to remember with both honey and agave is that they have distinct flavors, so you’ll want to make sure this type of syrup will mix well with your chosen cocktail (or vice versa).
Do You Have to Use Water?
No. Grenadine is a classic example. This commonly used cocktail syrup uses pomegranate juice instead of water. While you can buy it premade at the store, grenadine made from scratch has a richer flavor that is worth the (minimal) effort required to make it yourself.
And, if you’re willing to risk a potential kitchen fail, the sky is the limit. Ever heard of a beer simple syrup? Why not heat up your favorite stout, dissolve an equal measure of sugar in it, and then create a new whiskey cocktail? Or you could steep strawberries in simmering balsamic vinegar and then turn that into a syrup using brown sugar. Sounds like a perfect match for a creative vodka cocktail. Or, if you’re wanting a sweetener that’s also tart, consider making a shrub instead.
Stop by the distillery sometime to learn more about the syrups and shrubs we’ve got in the tasting room! We love to share our secrets (which makes them sorta not secret, technically)…