We have included affiliate links in this post, which means we may make a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on the link at no additional cost to you. You can find out more about these links here. Thank you for your support!
One of the main building blocks of any recipe is sweetness, and that sweetness usually comes in the form of sugar or more importantly in cocktail recipes, simple syrup.
Simple syrups are great to use in cocktails because it is just that, simple. Have you ever tried sweetening a drink with a packet of sugar? The sugar takes forever to dissolve if you even last that long stirring. I have a friend who loves his iced tea sweet, eight packs of sugar sweet. Eight packets because not all of the sugar would dissolve and he would be left with a pile of sugar in the bottom of his glass. If there is one thing we don’t want in our cocktails, it’s a pile of sugar. Using simple syrup solves that problem by making it easier to dissolve and get the correct measurement of sweetness for every drink.
There are two books which I refer to when making syrups, Jeffrey Morganthaler’s The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail.
What is Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup is a mixture of water and sugar. Syrups can be made from a vast array of different sugars, but the process to make them is the same. There are two ratios to know:
- 1:1 – Standard Simple Syrup
- 2:1 – Rich Simple Syrup
Either ratio can be used to make cocktails. Sometimes it depends on the drink recipe, or it could be personal preference. Rich simple syrups have a higher level of sweetness than standard simple syrup. A 1 oz rich simple syrup equals 1.5 oz standard simple syrup. Typically, rich simple syrup works excellent in spirit-forward cocktails like an Old Fashioned, and a standard version works well in drinks containing fruit juice such as a Tom Collins or a Ramos Gin Fizz, but again, depends on the person making the drink.
A 1:1 simple syrup will last about a month in the refrigerator, while 2:1 rich simple syrup will last about 6 months refrigerated. To make it last a bit longer, you can add a half an ounce to an ounce of vodka or neutral spirit as a preservative. I have had syrups that lasted much longer, just make sure to smell and taste them before using.
- When making your simple syrup, it is best to weigh your ingredients in grams. By weighing them, you get a more accurate ratio of sugar to water as opposed to measuring by volume, e.g., cups. When using measuring cups, the sugar granules are never packed as densely as water molecules. A simple scale will work perfectly in this situation. One cup of water weighs approximately 236 grams.
- Add a little salt to your simple syrup. Saline in small amounts will help brighten up sweet flavors, e.g. simple syrup. Adding a mere 1 ml of 10% solution to 200ml of simple will help make that sweet flavor pop.
How to make a 10% saline solution.
This will be close to a 10% solution but not exact.
- Weigh out 10 grams of Kosher salt.
- Add salt to 100ml of water.
- Swirl to dissolve salt. You can also add a little heat to help it dissolve.
- Place in a sanitized dropper bottle and enjoy.
(You can also use this solution to add drops to cocktails to enhance the flavor of sweet and sour drinks. Remember, a little goes a long way. Have fun experimenting.)
Bottling Your Simple Syrup
Before putting your simple syrup in a bottle, you should sterilize the bottle. To sterilize the bottles fill them with boiling water. Make sure to get boiling water on the rim of the container and the swing top or cork depending on your bottle. Then, you can use a funnel to pour your simple syrup into the bottle.
Using in Cocktails
Most cocktail recipes will call for simple syrup, making it easy to measure into your drink. Make sure you have a jigger that includes some of the standard measurements (.25 oz, .5 oz, 1 oz). You’ll also want to make sure you have the right tools to mix the drink, so be sure to get yourself a mixing glass, bar spoon, and strainer.
Different Sugars to Try
Different sugars will create different flavored syrups. Check out the following list for some ideas on sugars to use to create your own craft simple syrup.
Granulated: Table sugar, white sugar, or refined. Made from sugarcane and sugar beets. The quintessential go to for simple syrup.
Caster: Super fine granulated sugar. Dissolves quicker.
Cane: Produced solely from sugarcane and it is minimally processed.
Turbinado: AKA Sugar in the Raw. Minimally refined raw cane sugar with a subtle caramel flavor. Beautiful in an Old Fashioned.
Demerara: Minimally refined raw cane sugar. Slight molasses flavor and amber color. In a syrup, this plays really well with rum, great in tiki drinks.
Muscovado: Unrefined sugar where the molasses is not removed giving it a wet, sticky texture, and rich flavor. Can be used as a substitute for brown sugar but it has a much stronger flavor. Another great option for tiki drinks.
Light Brown Sugar: Refined white sugar with molasses added back in. Delicate caramel flavor.
Dark Brown Sugar: Refined white sugar with molasses added back in. More intense flavor than light brown sugar.
Palm Sugar (coconut, date, etc.): Sugar produced from the sap of certain palm trees. Less refined than cane sugar with a lower glycemic index. It’s not as sweet as refined sugar so you may have to add more to reach the same level of sweetness. It has a caramel-like taste much like natural molasses but on the lighter side.
Maple Syrup: We all know and love this stuff on our pancakes. This is one you can just buy at the store. Make sure you are buying 100% maple syrup with no flavorings or added high fructose corn syrup. Many states produce maple syrup so try out different ones to find your favorite. For cocktails, my preferences are the Grade A dark with a robust taste for a nice rich syrup, or the Grade A amber color with a sweet flavor for swapping as a 1:1
Honey Simple Syrup: There are so many different types of honey, e.g., elderflower, wildflower, manuka, clover, alfalfa, buckwheat. To make any of those into a honey syrup you just need to add water. Honey is about 82% sugar, so 1:1 honey to water doesn’t work, it’s more like 1g honey to .64g of water. For example, 100g of honey to 64 grams of water.