Simple Syrup Is The Building Block Of Many-A-Cocktail; Make It At Home
When you look up cocktail recipes for mixing at home, you’ll often encounter an ingredient: “simple syrup”. You’ll also know that this is what adds the sweetness to your drink. As opposed to adding sugar straight into your drink, incorporating it in syrup form lends a certain texture and feel, not to mention a better-balanced flavour.
The Classic Simple Syrup Recipe
To make the classic simple syrup, you simply need to dissolve one part of granulated sugar in one part of water. You do this by heating the water in a thick-bottomed saucepan on medium heat, stirring gently until all the sugar grains have melted. This takes anywhere between 2-3 minutes — that is, if you’re working with half a cup of sugar and water each, in terms of quantity.
You wait for the syrup to cool down completely, then transfer it to a clean bottle (always, always sterilise the container first, by rinsing it out with boiling water) with a lid that closes tightly, and refrigerate it until it’s time to add it to your cocktail recipe. Here’s where things get interesting: you can introduce variations to the basic simple syrup recipe once you’ve progressed further in your cocktail-mixing skills, to add another dimension to the drinks.
Variation 1: A Richer Syrup
There are several ways to elevate your simple syrup to the next level. You can replace the normal granulated sugar with demerara or turbinado — i.e. raw sugar — to introduce a richer and more caramel-like flavour to your simple syrup. You can also introduce a trendy spin by using something like coconut sugar in your simple syrup — can you imagine the flavour it’ll add to your cocktail?
There’s also the matter of personal preference and taste. Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes their cocktail to be sweeter, or you have a friend who loves their drink to be mixed on a sweeter note when they’re visiting your home. What you can do is increase the proportion of sugar to water in this case — double it, in fact. So take two parts of sugar to every one part of water and then follow the standard process. This sweeter version of the simple syrup works well with drinks that have a high acidic element to them.
A sweeter simple syrup can also be made by thinning honey or maple syrup in the water.
Variation 2: A Flavourful Syrup
You can add additional notes of flavour to your simple syrup with the use of carefully selected ingredients. We’re going to list a few powerhouses in this regard: mint, lavender, ginger, rosemary, pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom. Can you imagine just how delectable your cocktails would taste with faint traces of these very distinctive and pleasurable flavours threaded through them?
Spices — cinnamon, vanilla, pepper etc — can be added to your simple syrup when all the sugar has dissolved. Let the spice you’ve added simmer in the syrup for anywhere between 5-10 minutes before allowing it to cool and then straining the liquid into a jar or bottle.
Adding loose-leaf tea to flavour your simple syrup would work in much the same way as the method for spices. That also applies to herbs: wash and add them fresh to your simple syrup as it simmers. Fruits, on the other hand, can be added in two ways: you can either muddle or crush the fruits/berries and fine strain the juice into the ready simple syrup, or you can add slices of fruit and/or zest into the syrup while it’s still simmering on the stovetop. Fine strain once it has steeped for at least 15 minutes, allow it to cool, and then refrigerate.
Simple, But Sweet
Simple syrup needn’t be used in cocktails alone: you can add it to mocktails, to your coffee or chocolate drink, to dessert recipes, and anything else you want to add a sweet element to. Always strain your prepared syrup well — especially if you’re adding other ingredients to it — so it lasts for longer. Start with the classic, and then explore and experiment with flavour variations as you grow more confident!