How to Make Simple Syrup

How to make simple syrup

Making your own simple syrup is a rite of passage for a home mixologist. Once I made my own, I never went back to buying those dusty bottles of simple syrup from the back shelf of the liquor store. It’s easy to make, keeps for a month, and doesn’t contain any additives or preservatives.

To make simple syrup for cocktails, mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring over medium heat. When the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the stove and let the syrup cool. Then transfer it to a storage container and you’re ready to make cocktails!

Easy recipe for homemade simple syrup

If you’re just getting started in mixology, I recommend making 1:1 simple syrup. 1:1 means that there is one part sugar and one part water. Later on, you can experiment with other ratios like 2:1. Most recipes assume you’re using 1:1 simple syrup.

dissolving sugar over heat
Dissolving sugar over heat

Here are the steps to make simple syrup:

  1. Measure one cup of granulated sugar and pour into a saucepan.
  2. Measure one cup of water and pour into the saucepan.
  3. Put the saucepan on the stove over low to medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil the mixture.
  4. Stir continuously until all the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Remove from heat and transfer to a bottle or mason jar.

Why you should make simple syrup at home

I believe your cocktail is only as good as your worst ingredient. When you make your own simple syrup, you know exactly what’s in the bottle. You control the proportions and measurements, so you produce it exactly the same every time. You can also experiment with different sugars and ratios.

Making your own saves money because you’re not paying for a new bottle, distribution, shelf space, labels, preservatives, or mark-up. Sugar and water are inexpensive! Spend your money on alcohol instead!

The third reason to make simple syrup at home is that you can make more at any time. If you run out in the middle of a cocktail party, put on a show for your guests by making more! You don’t have to find a store that’s open and someone who can safely drive.

Weigh ingredients for more precision

If you have a food scale, you should weigh your ingredients instead of measuring by volume. This is because liquids (water) are more compact than stacks of solids (sugar). In The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, author Jeffrey Morgenthaler explains it this way:

Picture a measuring cup full of little blocks, and in between each block is a gap of air. You can imagine that some of those little blocks are going to line up better than others, and that the number of blocks in the measuring cup is going to depend on how well aligned all those blocks are.

measuring sugar by weight
Measuring sugar by weight on a food scale

I set my food scale to grams and zero out the weight of the measuring cup. Then I weigh two cups of sugar, and an equal weight of water. Do the sugar first, so you’re not putting dry sugar into a wet measuring cup.

Add flavor dimension by using different sugars

While the primary function of simple syrup is to add sweetness to a cocktail, different types of sugar can subtly influence the flavor of the drink.

White sugar (Ordinary granulated sugar)

White sugar is the most common sugar used for simple syrup. This refined sugar is flavorless, so you can use it to sweeten a cocktail without changing the character of the drink. Use white sugar for cocktails that showcase a particular base spirit, like a special whiskey.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is white sugar with added molasses. You can use brown sugar for simple syrup, but make sure you weigh it instead of measuring by volume. Simple syrup made from brown sugar will add a slight molasses flavor to your cocktails.

Turbinado Sugar (Demerara sugar, or Sugar in the Raw)

Turbinado sugar is unrefined sugar that has a golden color. This is my favorite sugar to use in cocktails. It has a slight caramel flavor and the golden color adds character to cocktails. I use it in any cocktail that calls for simple syrup, but it is especially good in Daiquiris.

Experiment with different ratios

You can make simple syrup in other ratios like 2:1. This can be extremely useful when you want to add sweetness to a drink without adding as much volume.

To make 2:1 simple syrup, just add two parts sugar to one part water and follow the same process to dissolve the sugar.

If you’re using 2:1 simple syrup in a recipe that assumes 1:1, you may have to adjust the amount of simple syrup you add to the cocktail to get the correct sweetness.

Storing simple syrup

Turbinado simple syrup
Turbinado Simple Syrup

I keep my simple syrup in an old 750ml liquor bottle that once held Havana Club rum. The tall and narrow shape makes for easy pouring and storage. The bottle holds 2 cups which lasts me several weeks. I cap off the bottle with a pour spout, which makes it easy to pour and measure when I’m making cocktails.

Store simple syrup in the refrigerator when it’s not in use. Sugar itself is a preservative, but it will eventually spoil and turn black. You can safely store 1:1 simple syrup in the refrigerator for one month, and 2:1 will keep up to six months.

Conclusion

Making your own simple syrup is one of the easiest ways you can save money while improving your home cocktails. After you’ve made your first batch, you owe it to yourself to celebrate with an Old Fashioned. Enjoy!

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