At its most basic form a simple syrup is water and sugar that has been cooked together until the sugar dissolves. The standard ratio is 1 part sugar to 1 part water. For a richer and more syrupy simple syrup use 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. This syrup adds a rich texture to cocktails and allows you to use half the amount of simple syrup for the same amount of sweetness so you aren’t diluting the cocktail. Add a touch of vodka to this mix at the end to prolong the shelf life of your simple syrup. This will keep in the refrigerator for 6 months.
To make things even easier you can make a simple syrup without a stove by just mixing sugar and water together until dissolved, but this won’t produce a thick syrupy sweetener.
There are far too many variations to list here as you are only limited by your own imagination but I’ll tell you about a few of my favorite. First of all you can swap out the sugar. Try a simple syrup with dark brown sugar or muscovado for a rich, toffee-like sweetener. While recently in southern California I picked up a bag of Date sugar and as I’m writing this I’m imagining that would make a great, earthy sort of sweetener.
While the sugar and water are heating on the stove you can introduce herbs and spices to infuse your simple syrup. A vanilla bean thrown into the mix is lovely and then you have a the base for cream soda. Add a little vanilla syrup to some club soda with a splash of cream and you’re set.
This time of year when the garden is teeming with herbs I love making herb syrups such as thyme, lavender, and tarragon.
I’ve also used rhubarb to make a simple syrup for sodas and cocktails. Simply add chopped rhubarb into the mix and let the syrup cool while the rhubarb remains in the syrup and then strain it out. The strained rhubarb is also great mixed with yogurt or served with ice cream.
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We’ve mentioned cocktails and that is the classic way to use a simple syrup but it’s worth mentioning a few more intriguing simple syrups that can add life to summer cocktails. How about a thyme lemonade spiked with vodka? Or a tea infused simple syrup with gin?
Homemade sodas always impress people especially when you can make a tarragon orange (or lime) soda (tarragon simple syrup, orange (or lime) juice and soda water). Or a rhubarb float (rhubarb simple syrup, soda water and vanilla ice cream). Loads of fresh ginger added to the pot makes the basis for homemade ginger ale - try with a bit of lime.
We keep simple syrup in the fridge to sweeten our ice coffee drinks. In the afternoon when we need a little more perk to get through the day my husband and I will often brew ice coffee sweetened with a bit of simple syrup. The syrup sweetens the coffee without having to stir and stir to get the sugar to dissolve. I love mixing a cardamom infused simple syrup with a bit of coffee and cream for a cold coffee drink reminiscent of a Thai Iced coffee.
Homemade sorbets are made quickly and easily with the help of simple syrup. We blend frozen fruit in the food processor with simple syrup to make an instant sorbet - a welcomed treat on a hot day. Try frozen peaches with a basil simple syrup. Or a cinnamon syrup with strawberries.
Try your hand at growing your own garden to flavor your simple syrups with these great gardening tutorials:
Or if you're craving something else sweet, explore fifteen minute desserts.