how to make a simple syrup.
The clue is in the name. Simple syrup, or stock syrup in the kitchen, is equal parts sugar and water or 1:1 ratio. It has been used in a variety of classic cocktails and in many speed bars where spoons of sugar for every drink are just not productive. But why do we always use white sugar? And how do we flavour syrups with Fruit, herbs, and spices? We answer it all in this article.
A simple syrup is made from equal parts white sugar and water. a 1:1 ratio is the norm so 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. For a thicker syrup in cocktails some bars prefer a 2:1 ratio. 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water.
It’s a fair question and one many don’t think about it. Sugar has been the main component of the human diet for thousands of years. We need it to survive. Our brains and muscles use it as their primary energy source.
However, there are many different types of sugar. In a modern diet, refined sugar is found in most home foods. But rather than always going for the bag of granulated sugar that’s sitting on the shelf, why don’t we look at some alternatives?
Sugar is the collective name for soluble carbohydrates found in multiple sources. There are 3 simple sugars (monosaccharides) that make up the blueprint for other more complex sugars called disaccharides.
Monosaccharides – fructose, glucose, and galactose
Disaccharide – lactose, maltose, and sucrose
Most sugars are found in plant tissue with sugar cane and sugar beet the most commercially manufactured due to their high concentration.
Refined white sugar has gone through much chemical processing, which means while it keeps its sweetness, it actually has a relatively bland flavour.
Looking at other types of sugar, we see a broad range of sweetness levels and tastes.
|Sugar type||Source||Sweetness index|
|Maltose||Barley Malt Syrup||0.5|
Brown sugar is usually refined or partially refined sugar cane granules with the presence of Molasses. Some of these sugars, like the Jaggery, are classed as “raw”. These types of sugar can have lovely depths of flavour like caramel and earthy notes.
• Demerara – This type of cane sugar is a pale amber colour with fairly large grain. You can expect some pleasant toffee flavours.
• Sucanat – This is crystallized pure cane sugar. It is truly unrefined so retains a higher proportion of molasses than other types of cane sugars. The flavour can be an intense, almost burnt taste. Some vegans and vegetarians prefer it due to no bone char being used in the process of making it.
• Muscovado – Another cane sugar, this has a moist texture and a very strong molasses flavor. It can be found in different strengths so make sure to test for the right one to meet your needs.
• Jaggery – Commonly made from palm, coconut, or java plants this sugar is found compressed into little pattycakes or cones. It has an earthy sweet flavour great to pair with dark spirits.
• Piloncilo – this is similar to jaggery but is uniquely a Mexican sugar. It is usually the secret ingredient in many mole, salsas, soups and sauces. the flavour is strong and gives off almost-smoky molasses notes.
• Turbinado – This is made from the first pressing of sugar cane and it retains some of its natural molasses. The flavour is of light caramel.
Sugar acts as a preservative by drawing out the water in a product thus taking away the means for microorganisms, such as yeast, to grow.
Sugar is commonly used alongside salt as a preservative as it also attracts water from other sources, so keeping all your mixtures in airtight containers is necessary.
The trouble with finding the balance is that using too little sugar will negate the effects of preservation but using too much can spoil the finished product and be terrible for your teeth!
With many of our recipes, we have found the balance and also given a recommended shelf life for each recipe.
But once again, this is all open to interpretation and we urge you to experiment. Maybe you want your raspberry syrup to taste more concentrated?
Reducing the amount of sugar and adding more raspberries will do the trick but will also mean the syrup will deteriorate pretty quickly. However, if you are using it for one night of cocktails, what’s the harm?
Doubling the quantity of sugar provides a thicker sugar syrup which can be used in cocktails such as the old fashioned. You will want to use a 2:1 ratio here for your simple syrup.
Honey is so diverse and you can get some great flavours from it to enhance your drinks! It’s much easier to create a syrup first for easy mixing so follow the recipe below. Honey around the world is different due to different pollinations of indigenous plants and flowers.
In episode 7 of On the Back Bar Podcast we talked to Max Curzon Price of the Botanist bar in Canada who started a campaign for individuals to become their own urban beekeepers in his Bacardi Legacy campaign Hive of the Apiarists.
Barley Malt Syrup is made up of the sugar Maltose meaning it is about half the sweetness of normal sugar. Despite this, it has a rich flavour of malt and a sweet earthiness.
We recommend diluting the powerful flavour in a rich simple syrup recipe to dilute and increase the sweetness.
Agave Syrup has become widely used in the bar world over the last decade however it has come under scrutiny due to its unproven health benefits compared to sugar. This is because it has a low glycemic index, lower than 55. However, Agave Syrup has a high fructose content which is detrimental to human health in large quantities.
There is also a great deal of confusion with regard to agave nectar and agave syrup. They are actually two different products with very different production methods.
Creating agave nectar is very similar to maple syrup. The sap is extracted from the centre of the agave plant before filtering and then heating at low temperatures (under 118 degrees F). Because of this agave nectar is regarded as a “raw food”. There are lighter and dark varieties and no chemicals or enzymes are used in the process.
Then there is agave syrup. Agave syrup is processed and modified in very much the same way as high fructose corn syrup HFCS. The agave syrup is filtered and then boiled for up to 36 hours to concentrate the liquid to around 90% fructose. It is also treated with enzymes so all trace nutrients will be destroyed in the process.
We recommend using agave nectar only. Agave nectar works great in a Margarita to really bring the concept of agave love home in your cocktail.
Your sugar syrup, depending on what sugar you used, will be the perfect enhancer to what fruit, veg, spice or herb you decide to use. Think seasonally and check in with local stores or farms to see what bounty is growing in the area. When deciding which fruit, herbs, and spices to pair think about natural flavour pairings. We use Niki Segnet’s The Flavour Thesaurus book for inspiration on great combinations.
Below are some of our favorite flavoured syrup recipes to get you started.
Almond syrup or commonly known as orgeat is an integral part of a Mai Tai or other tiki cocktails! This a lengthy process of steeping raw chopped almonds in water overnight. Orgeat is actually a liquor because of the addition of vodka and orange blossom water. You can find out how to make it in our upcoming alcohol infusion article.
Rhubarb is a British staple on menus around the country during the season. It is a very sour plant and is great for adding tartness and crispness to cocktails. The acid found in rhubarb is not citric like that found in lemons, but it has a high concentration of malic acid. Malic acid is actually more sour than citric and is what gives grapes and apples their sourness. Keep in mind when preparing rhubarb that only the stalks are edible as the leaves are toxic.
Their sweet-sour taste matches harmoniously well with lighter herbal flavours and, like strawberries, pairs well with cream and yogurt because of their subtle dairy notes. Raspberries have a fantastic balance of acidity and flavour so are ideal not only for syrups but alcohol infusions too. If you have a surplus, why not try a raspberry vodka?
Apple mint is often seen as a weed, most likely because of its aggressive growing but I find the flavour to be incredible compared to its perennial cousins. It has a more pronounced flavour and because of its large woolly leaves, you need to use a lot less than normal mint. Apple mint works perfectly well alongside strong flavours such as rich meats and dark chocolate. Take care of the delicate leaves.
By this point, you should have something rather tasty in your hands to use in drinks but have you thought about making a shrub? adding vinegar can change the whole dynamic and create something truly delicious with some added zing, you can read more on how to make a shrub in our article here.
Store your Syrups in a sterile container preferably a glass bottle that can be easily stored and with a cap for easy access. Make sure to keep your Syrups in a fridge.
We recommend keeping for up to 2 weeks but some can last for a lot longer. Keep an eye on your shrub and if you see any bubbles forming or hear hissing when opening the bottle then its time to throw away and make a new batch.
In our Cocktail Recipes at Home E-book, we listed a number of homemade syrups, shrubs, and infusions. Below is one of our favorite Shrub’s from the book, which is delicious and super easy to make!
“Join Christopher Menning and Horace Buckenham, bartending duo on their discovery into homemade ingredients. The mixology team behind Gastronomer Lifestyle gives you 50 drink recipes you can make at home with a focus on homemade. This book covers syrups, shrubs, fat washes and alcohol infusions giving you the basic understanding needed to make them yourself.“
Also known as bee bread, this delicious little treat is made up of flower pollen collected by worker bees and stored as food in the hive. It’s been known as nature’s most nourishing food source due to its range of rich proteins, minerals, acids, and vitamins although many of the supposed health benefits are yet to be tested. The production of bee pollen is very labour intensive, hence why much of the high street pollen you will find will be from countries with low labour costs. I love opening up a jar and having a spoonful, the mouthfeel is like that of tannin, but the taste is almost cereal like! Don’t worry, no bees were harmed in the making of this recipe. You can buy bee pollen all year round, although if you are going to source it, I would 100% find a local honey keeper. Every bee pollen is made up of a multitude of different plants and flowers depending on where the bees work.
25g of bee pollen
Simply add it to a soda or seltzer water with ice for a refreshing Mocktail or add some whiskey or vodka for a boozy, fruity, summer sipper.
Many classic cocktails call for sugar syrup to be used to balance the recipe and now is a great opportunity to make your own twists with whatever flavour you created. Use Agave syrup in a margarita recipe or add vanilla in your espresso martini to make your drinks shine.
This cocktail was created by our Gastronomer Mixologists for a luxury hotel in the UK and was one of their best sellers! We wanted to encapsulate British Summer and the importance of Bee’s in a cup and this really hit the spot!
the sweetness from the honeycomb rum matches nicely with the floral elderflower and toasty notes of the Bee pollen syrup. The lager we used was from Blue Point Brewing Co. called Toast.
The light beer was made from unwanted bread from around London, so super sustainable and tasty! We wanted to create a unique vessel for the drink and what could more appropriate than a honey pot which we commissioned from a local potter in Brighton named Mark Ciavola, who owns the Potters Thumb store.
50ml Honeycomb Rum
20ml Bee Pollen Syrup
15ml elderflower liqueur
Top up with lager
Serve: over ice
Glass: Tall glass or a Honey Pot!
In cooking and cocktails, a syrup is a thick, viscous liquid consisting of sugar and water usually equal parts. The sugar is dissolved in the water and while white sugar is usually preferred honey, demerara and barley malt can also be used.
Over medium heat pour a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water into the pan and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Then pour into a container and let it cool before placing it in the fridge.
We recommend keeping syrups in the fridge for up to two weeks.