How to Make and Use Simple Syrups to Add Sweetness, Flavor

7 years ago

Incorporated into cocktails, or simply mixed with soda, seltzer or sparkling water for a refreshing non-alcoholic libation, simple syrup is an easy way to add sweetness and flavor to beverages. It's an easy, affordable ingredient to make and keep on hand, and can be used for more than just drinks.

Mohini of Mango Power Girl talks about how versatile her simple syrup infused with basil was for not just beverages, but fruit-based dishes: "Its spicy sweetness is perfect in summery mixed drinks, fruit salads, or drizzled onto any fruit you please. Already I have enjoyed it in drinks, over a bowl of berries, on watermelon, and I've even used it to make ice pops," she writes.

The basics of simple syrup are, well, simple: Toss a cup of sugar in a pot with a cup of water (for a thicker syrup, try 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water instead), and then bring it to a simmer over medium-high temperature until the sugar has dissolved. Then let it cool to room temperature, put it in a jar or container, and refrigerate it for up to a month. For step-by-step instructions, with photographs, check out the simple syrup post from Jessie of The Hungry Mouse. She also has some terrific ideas for ways (both cocktail and non-cocktail) to use the syrup once you have it on hand.

I also regularly make honey syrup, which I make by substituting raw local honey for the sugar (keeping the proportions the same). The method is identical: Heat until the honey is dissolved, then cool and keep in the refrigerator. This variation is my go-to for hot tea, and I also have been known to put it to use in my favorite homemade (but for adults only) cough remedy.

Though I haven't tried it myself, agave nectar is another sweetener that can be incorporated into simple syrups. Diana De Cicco of She Knows includes a recipe for Agave Simple Syrup (using either agave nectar or syrup) in her post featuring three different recipes for tequila-based cocktails that incorporate this particular variation on the theme.

To infuse the syrup with an herb or spice, toss that herb or spice in with the sugar and water, and then let it stand for at least 30 minutes during the cooling process before straining the mixture into your container of choice. However, when making her lavender simple syrup, Zoe of Zoe Bakes leaves the flowers in the refrigerated mixture, and just strains them out as she needs syrup for a recipe or drink.

Here are some additional simple syrup ideas you may enjoy:

  • The Kitchn offers a lovely rosemary simple syrup recipe. See the comments for excellent ideas about how to use this woodsy variation. 
  • Elise of Simply Recipes wouldn't think of trying to make perfect lemonade without simple syrup as its sweetener.
  • Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes provides delicious-sounding recipes for Blackberry Blueberry Simple Syrup and Raspberry Simple Syrup.
  • For those with an adventurous taste for spice, Linsey Cake of Cake and Commerce talks about how she made a sweet-hot simple syrup infused with Thai chilies.

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She also tells stories with photos at 5x52.

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