How to Make Simple Syrup for Cocktails (Plus Flavor Infusions)

Simple Syrup for Cocktails

Once you learn how to make simple syrup, your cocktail repertoire opens up. You can buy pre-made simple syrup, but when you make your own, you can create different strengths of syrup and infuse it with additional ingredients to add more flavorful finesse to your cocktails.

How to Make Simple Syrup

Homemade simple syrup is easy to make. It just takes a few minutes, and it's an essential ingredient in many classic cocktails.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  1. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat on high, stirring.
  2. Continue to heat until the sugar completely dissolves in the water.
  3. Cool before using.

You can also make smaller or larger batches depending on your needs. Simply use equal parts sugar and water. Use it in cocktails or to make beverages such as homemade lemonade.

Syrup From Nigra Sambucus

Using Basic Simple Syrup in Cocktails

Many classic and modern cocktails call for simple syrup. Most commonly, it's used in sours, which are cocktails that are made with a sour ingredient such as lemon juice or lime juice, a sweet ingredient (simple syrup or a cordial), and a strong ingredient (hard liquor such as vodka, tequila, rum, gin, or whiskey). When using basic simple syrup in a sour, use the following ratio:

  • 1 part sour (usually ¾ an ounce)
  • 1 part simple syrup or cordial (usually ¾ an ounce)
  • 2 parts strong (1½ ounces)

Shake sours in a cocktail shaker with ice and then strain them into the appropriate cocktail glass (either filled with ice or straight up depending on the drink), and finish with the appropriate garnish. You'll see this ratio in action in a number of cocktails including:

  • Whiskey sour (¾ ounce lemon juice, ¾ ounce simple syrup, 1½ ounces whiskey or bourbon served on the rocks in a rocks glass with an orange slice and cherry as garnish)
  • Pisco sour
  • Daiquiri (¾ ounce lime juice, ¾ ounce simple syrup, 1½ ounces rum served on the rocks in a cocktail glass with a lime garnish)
  • Lemon drop
The bartender adds syrup to the shaker

Rich Simple Syrup Recipe

Some bartenders prefer to make a rich simple syrup, which has a higher ratio of sugar to water (2:1). This does a few things:

  • It keeps longer
  • It adds sweetness to drinks with less dilution so other ingredient flavors stand out more

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  1. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat on high, stirring.
  2. Continue to heat until the sugar completely dissolves in the water.
  3. Cool before using.

Using Rich Simple Syrup in Cocktails

If you're using rich simple syrup, add half the amount called for in the cocktail. So for a basic sour, the ratio will be:

  • 1 part simple syrup (about 1½ bar spoons)
  • 2 parts sour (¾ ounce)
  • 4 parts strong (1½ ounces).

This ratio works whether you're making a single cocktail or creating mixed drinks by the batch. The cocktail volume will be a little less, but the flavors will be more intense.

Simple Syrup Substitute Sweeteners

You can also use different sweeteners to make simple syrups using the above ratios and recipes. Therefore, you can make things such as low-carb simple syrup, low-glycemic simple syrup, honey simple syrup, and maple simple syrup. Some sweeteners you can use as a direct 1:1 replacement for sugar include:

  • Maple sugar (try using it in a whiskey sour to make a maple whiskey sour)
  • Demerara sugar (use it with some dark rum in a basic daiquiri for an interesting flavor variation)
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey (use it for a penicillin cocktail)
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave syrup (great for margaritas)
Smokehouse cocktail

Low-Carb Simple Syrups

For low-carb simple syrups, use a granulated low-carb sweetener that measures like sugar. Sweeteners you can use with the above ratios and recipes to make low-carb simple syrup and cocktails include:

  • Granulated allulose
  • Granulated monk fruit sweetener
  • A granulated erythritol-based sweetener such as Swerve
  • Granulated sucralose

Avoid aspartame, which doesn't play well with heat; it turns bitter. Likewise, it doesn't measure like sugar. Stevia is also not a great choice because it doesn't measure like sugar, and it can impart bitter flavors.

How to Make Infused Simple Syrup

Infusing simple syrups is a delicious way to add different flavors to your cocktails. You can infuse it with basically any ingredient you wish, but some work particularly well for cocktails. To make an infused simple syrup, steep it almost like you're steeping tea (and you can even make a tea-flavored simple syrup).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Infusion ingredients (see below)

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water on high heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Add the infusion ingredients.
  2. Remove from the heat and steep for 30 minutes. If you're infusing it with tea, steep only for 5 minutes or you risk it becoming bitter.
  3. Strain into a clean container and cool completely before using.

Infusion Flavors and Amounts

Some flavors you can use to infuse along with the amounts needed include:

  • Earl grey tea (1 tea bag)
  • Cinnamon (2 cinnamon sticks)
  • Whole allspice (1 tablespoon)
  • Whole cloves (1 tablespoon)
  • Peppercorns (10 peppercorns)
  • Dried lavender (1 tablespoon)
  • Citrus zest (2 1-inch strips)
  • Fresh mint (10 leaves)
  • Fresh basil (10 leaves)
  • Fresh rosemary (2 sprigs)
  • Fresh thyme (2 sprigs)
  • Vanilla (1 bean, split)
  • Bay (5 leaves)
  • Juniper berries (10 berries)
  • Lightly crushed soft fruits or berries (blueberry, raspberry, peach, plum, etc.) (½ cup)
  • Dried chipotle chilis (1 chili)
  • Fennel seeds (1 tablespoon)
  • Fenugreek seeds (1 tablespoon)
  • Cocoa nibs (1 tablespoon)
  • Cardamom pods (1 tablespoon)

When working with dried spices, use the whole spice, not the ground version. For herbs, you can leave the leaves whole and intact; there's no need to chop them or remove them from their stems. For soft fruits, crush them lightly to release flavor, but you don't need to pulverize them.

Making Chili-Infused Simple Syrups

Looking for a spicy cocktail? They're becoming all the rage, and you can infuse chili pepper heat and flavor into your cocktails by making a simple syrup using fresh chili peppers.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-2 fresh hot chili peppers, halved (with seeds)

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a saucepan on high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Strain and cool completely before using or storing.

Keeping the Heat in Check

The chili peppers you try depend largely on your heat tolerance and preference. Refer to a list of hot chilies for guidance, and use only a small amount of very hot peppers. You can also reduce the heat by removing the ribs and seeds from the chilies before infusing.

Recipe for Hard Fruit or Vegetable Infused Simple Syrups

If you want to use a hard fruit, such as an apple or a pear, or a vegetable like rhubarb, you can use this easy recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Hard fruits or vegetables (see below)

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients. Heat on high heat, stirring, until it boils.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
  3. Cool and strain.

Infusion Ingredients

  • Apples (1 apple, peeled and chopped)
  • Rhubarb (1 cup, peeled and chopped)
  • Carrots (1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped)
  • Ginger (2-3 1-inch slices, peeled)
  • Turmeric (2-3 1-inch slices, peeled)
  • Pear (1 pear, peeled and chopped)
bottles with red syrup

Combining Simple Syrups

You can also mix your simple syrups to make fun flavors that you can add to your drinks. Infuse flavors separately, and then mix equal amounts of each or play around to find a ratio you'll enjoy. Then, combine them with an equal part of the citrus juice of your choice and 2 parts of a hard liquor using the ratios outlined above. Some combinations to try include:

  • Pear and rosemary (try it with lemon juice and gin)
  • Pear and thyme (try it with grapefruit juice and vodka)
  • Apple and cinnamon (try with lemon juice and vodka)
  • Strawberry and rhubarb (try with lime juice and white rum)
  • Strawberry and lavender (try with gin and lemon juice)
  • Blackberry and thyme (combine with grapefruit juice and gin)
  • Honey and ginger (try with lemon juice and whiskey or use it in a hot toddy)
  • Orange and clove (try with orange or grapefruit juice and rum or use it in a hot toddy)
  • Maple and cinnamon (try with orange juice and rum)
  • Molasses and ginger (try with orange juice and rum or in a hot toddy)
  • Lavender and honey (try with grapefruit juice and tequila)
  • Raspberry and basil (try with lime juice and vodka)
  • Brown sugar and cinnamon (try with lemon juice and whiskey or in a hot toddy)
  • Agave and chili pepper (try with lime juice and tequila)
  • Carrot, honey, and ginger (try with lime juice and vodka)
  • Chipotle and lime (try with grapefruit juice and tequila)
  • Lime and mint (try with lime juice and rum or vodka)
  • Orange and cardamom (try with orange or lemon juice and whiskey)

Using these simple formulas, the possibilities are endless to make delicious signature cocktails with your homemade infused simple syrups.

How Long Does Simple Syrup Last?

How long simple syrup lasts depends on its ingredients and sugar ratios. Always store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

  • Basic simple syrup will last for up to one month.
  • Rich simple syrup will last up to two months.
  • Honey simple syrups can last indefinitely. If the honey crystalizes, simply reheat it to dissolve the honey once again.
  • If you've infused fruits, vegetables, or fresh herbs, you'll want to use the syrup within about a week.
  • You can also store the syrups in the freezer in a tightly sealed container for up to six months.

Make Your Own Simple Syrup

Homemade simple syrups provide endless possibilities for creating and mixing your own cocktails. Whether you use them in basic cocktails or come up with something entirely creative, simple syrup is an essential cocktail ingredient.

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How to Make Simple Syrup for Cocktails (Plus Flavor Infusions)