September 07, 2022 by Sonja Edridge
If you’re a newbie to cocktail making, learn how to use syrup variations in your home cocktail bar. We’ll show you how homemade cocktail syrups can elevate your drinks easily and what makes the best simple syrups for cocktails.
Why use syrups in cocktails
Using homemade cocktail syrups instead of sugar in cocktails is a well-known hack that mixologists rely on. It gives your drink a viscosity that helps blend all the ingredients together, as well as delivering a smooth silky sweetness and mouthfeel that sugar granules just don’t deliver. Except when we want them in a Mojito muddle with crunchy sugar( preferably brown) and mint.
The best simple syrups for cocktails
The variations of homemade cocktail syrups are endless so be as playful and creative as you like. A simple syrup is simply sugar melted in water. This vital ingredient is a staple building block in cocktail making and is really so easy to make from scratch. A basic simple syrup is made with equal measures of water and sugar (half a cup of each is a good start). Heat this gently in a pan for about 2-3 minutes to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool before using and transfer any leftover syrup into a jar for another time. Feeling adventurous? Try one of our variations below:
Rich simple syrup
A rich syrup is well, a richer version of the basic recipe. To make it, double the amount of sugar to water and dissolve it in the same way. It will deliver a velvety result that’s richer and sweeter. Use it to balance cocktails like a Lime Daiquiri that has tons of acidity or a Whiskey Sour.
Make a rich molasses syrup using 1 ounce blackstrap molasses to 9 ounces sugar. Dissolve this in 10 ounces of water for a rich dark syrup, perfect for rum cocktails.
Fresh fruit syrup
Up the fruit flavor in your cocktails and mocktails with a fruit syrup using the similar ratio guide of 1 part water, 1 part sugar, and 1-2 parts fruit. To make a fresh fruit syrup, muddle, crush or blend the fruit first then strain into the syrup. Alternatively, add the juice or citrus zest and simmer to infuse for 10-15 minutes before straining. Reduce the water in a basic simple syrup recipe when using fruit with a high water content, like watermelon. Here are some fresh fruit syrups to try:
- Raspberry, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries
- Peach, mango and nectarine
- Watermelon and cantaloupe
- Passionfruit and pineapple
Heated fruit syrups
Using the similar ratio guide of 1 part water, 1 part sugar, and 1-2 parts fruit, a heated fruit syrup is where the fruit needs the heat to activate and soften the flavors. To make a heated fruit syrup; just add cut fruit along with your sugar and water. Simmer to infuse for 10-15 minutes before straining. Heated fruit syrup options:
- Citrus peels, like clementines, grapefruit or orange
Swirling infused herb syrups into a cocktail can be a game changer. This simple trick is a delicate way of adding a depth of flavor when cocktail making. Mint, rosemary and thyme are popular profiles that blend gorgeously well in cocktails. Bourbon cocktails, particularly an Old Fashioned, love a rosemary syrup. Mint syrup pairs well with gin cocktails like a Passionfruit Gin. A thyme syrup works beautifully with most Campari cocktails, so try it with a Jungle Bird or Italian Gentleman. An Aperol Spritz is also a good match with thyme. To make a herby syrup, add some washed herbs to your simple syrup once the sugar has dissolved. Allow it to steep for ten minutes to intensify before straining. Flowers like lavender are also fantastic in a syrup for gin cocktails that have a botanical base. Look out for smoked herb cocktails too – they are so hot right now!
Specialty cocktail syrups
There’s so many specialty syrup variations featuring a single ingredient like hazelnut, coffee or vanilla. Here’s some of our faves:
This lesser known syrup will give you cocktails an almond twist. A perfect Mai Tai would be lost without this tiki bar staple ingredient. This sweet and creamy almond syrup occasionally contains brandy or Cognac but the basic recipe is made with almonds, almond essence and orange flower water and then sweetened with sugar. If you have some of this syrup you can swap it directly for a simple syrup, no dilution with water needed.
For an unrefined sugar option, agave is also something you can switch in place of sugar (or coconut sugar, maple syrup or date syrup too). This will deliver a richer caramel taste and will sweeten a cocktail. It pairs well in tequila cocktails that need a little sweetening as tequila is also made from the agave plant.
Take our basic simple syrup recipe and give it a spicy twist! Add one of the spices below to your simple syrup once the sugar has dissolved. Allow it to simmer and steep in the warm simple syrup for 10-15 minutes before straining and cooling.
- Festive spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spice will make your cocktails more Christmassy
- A simple spice like vanilla goes well with any cocktail: just score a vanilla pod lengthways to expose the seeds
- Slices of fresh ginger or chili add that extra spicy kick to Margaritas
- For a pretty pink syrup, add crushed pink peppercorns. It’s perfect for a Peach Bellini or any of our fruity gin cocktails
- Cardamom and chocolate are a heavenly match, so make a cardamom syrup to stir into any chocolate cocktail.
- Leaf teas are amazing in syrup variations. An Earl Grey syrup can add tasty notes to a Collins cocktail
Add extra richness to your Espresso Martini by stirring a spoonful of instant coffee or a shot of espresso into your hot simple syrup. Make sure to stir it well to dissolve or blend and strain through a cheesecloth to remove any granules.
How to properly store syrups
Basic simple syrup variations will keep in your refrigerator in a sealed glass jar for up to 4 weeks. Here are a few tips to ensure it lasts as long as possible:
- Sterilize a jar or bottle before adding the syrup. Run it through the dishwasher or rinse a clean jar with boiling water. Drain excess water before using
- Allow your syrup to cool thoroughly before transferring it to the jar
- To use it, pour what you need out rather than dipping a spoon into it
- Syrup variations that are not strained won’t last as long, so strain before storing in the refrigerator. Use cheesecloth to remove extra fine infusions for a clear liquid that will last longer
- Freezing homemade cocktail syrups into ice cube trays is also a great hack. Once frozen, pop the cubes out into a Ziploc bag or container to keep frozen for 3-4 months