Sweeeet! A simple guide to Simple Syrup

July 14, 2014

“What the eff is simple syrup?” Much to my surprise, this is a question that I hear pretty often. Whether it’s written on a restaurant menu, or while in conversation discussing the latest cocktail recipe, it comes up time and time again. It’s time to solve this mystery. In fact, the answer is quite…. simple……………………….

A cocktail, whether it’s basic or complex, requires balance. Cocktail balance is all about controlling your flavours; sweet, sour and the potency of your base spirit. Today we’re going to talk about sweetness and the most common method for sweetening your drinks is by adding Simple Syrup. So let’s dive right in.

Simple Syrup 101

Simple syrup is a basic mixture of water and sugar. To make it, this is all you need to do:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Mix the sugar and water in a small sauce pan on medium-high heat. As the water heats up, stir to dissolve the sugar. At the first hint of a boil, remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate.

This will keep in your fridge for about a month. If you’d like to double your syrup’s shelf life, add 1 tablespoon of high proof vodka per cup of water.

I like to keep a handy squeeze bottle in the fridge for when I want one of my faves like the Old Fashioned, or to make a Peruvian classic, the Pisco sour for the folks, or even a refreshing Tom Collins for the wife.

OK, let’s get fancier


Now you’ve graduated from Simple Syrup 101, let’s keep this rolling. If you mix 2:1 sugar to water with the steps above, you’ll get Rich Syrup. This stuff lasts longer in the fridge because it contains less water for pesky stuff to grow in – it’ll last you about 2 months. It is obviously sweeter so you would use less than the 1 to 1 when making a cocktail (We use this in our bitters recipe, to balance it without adding too much water volume). I don’t make Rich Syrup too often because most recipes call for the 1:1 stuff and it can be a drag to convert on the fly.

You may have also seen ‘gomme’ or ‘gum’ syrups in some hipster restaurants around town. This is simple syrup with an added ingredient: gum arabic. The process for making Gum Syrup is essentially the same as Simple Syrup, but it’s a lot more time consuming. The gum arabic does three things; it smoothes out the consistency of the syrup, it helps with the emulsification (to allow it to mix better), and it makes the syrup last longer. For these reasons it is commonly used at restaurants. Because it takes a little longer to make, I typically avoid it, but some higher-end and trendy bars highlight that they use this on their menus as a strategy  to stand out, but it’s very likely that you’re getting the same stuff at some mid-range restos/bars as well.

Not a fan of white sugar? Any other sweetener will work. Try some demerara, turbinado, honey, or even maple syrup.They will all add their own characteristic to your syrup.

On top of that, simple syrup can be an excellent vehicle for other flavours as well. For instance, when you have your water and sugar in the pot, why not add some of your favourite flavours? One I particularly like is Raspberry Mint Syrup. Here’s how to make it:

Raspberry Mint Syrup


1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup raspberries
25 mint leaves

Mix the sugar, water, the fresh raspberries, and the 25 torn mint leaves in a small sauce pan on medium-high heat. As the water heats up, stir to dissolve the sugar. At the first hint of a boil, turn to low heat, and let simmer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove from heat and let cool.

You’ve probably noticed that this method is very similar to the one above with the exception of the 5 minute simmer. We do this so that the syrup has a little more time to absorb the mint and raspberry flavour. I personally like to use this syrup in a bourbon lemonade.

And there you have the basic formula and method for a flavoured syrup. The next step is to take your favourite flavours and toss them in the mix! Your imagination is the limit here. Let me share some of my other favourite syrups with you.

Blackberry Sage Syrup

20 Sage leaves
Handful of fresh blackberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Lemon Basil Syrup

12 Basil leaves
Zest of 2 lemons
2 cup water
1 cup sugar

Cranberry Syrup

1 cup of cranberries
1 medium stick of cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Passion Fruit Rich Syrup

syrup_photo2 Simple syrup isn’t just for us drunks. You can share it with your non-drinking friends and family too. If you own a SodaStream and want to mix it up, add the following syrup to your soda water for a refreshing Passion Fruit Soda Pop.

Flesh of 2 passion fruits
1 cup water
2 cups sugar

Whiskey Syrup

This one is for the advanced folk….

1 cup sugar
1 cup rye whiskey

That’s it. Pretend the whiskey is water and follow the basic recipe.

That’s all! Now your life is a little sweeter aaaaaand you’re a lot more fat because there are 97 calories per ounce of simple syrup (see how I left this to the end? Haha, enjoy!).

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  • Reply Nausheena July 14, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Can you use agave syrup as a substitute to the other sweeteners you mentioned?

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