How to Make: Simple Syrup

Categories: How To

Simple Syrup at Catalina.JPG
Simple. Syrup. The name says it all. It should be a staple of restaurants and cafes, yet seems strangely ignored in favor of packets of "raw sugar," resulting in sub-par chilled beverages. As Houstonians surviving on unlimited refills of iced-tea during the sweltering months, we should be clamoring for the stuff. Instead, we make do, bitterly resenting the bits of un-dissolved sugar resting at the bottom of our bottomless glasses.

Recently, while I was picking up a coffee at Catalina, I saw a squeeze bottle full of the stuff alongside the lids and spoons, ready to sweeten my cup of Chemex-brewed iced coffee. This should be a common sight, but I can't remember seeing simple syrup among the condiments at any other café around town.

Fortunately, simple syrup is simple to make. So much so that restaurants that don't offer it should be shamed, and those of us who don't make it should think twice. It's about as simple as boiling water.

Horehound Simple Syrup2.JPG
Simple syrup requires only two ingredients: sugar and water. You need equal amounts of each, by volume, plus a pot in which to prepare the syrup and a container in which to store it once it's done. The process is a one-step affair.

You combine equal parts sugar and water in a pot large enough to hold them, and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. That's it. You should probably stir it frequently. If you're adding other flavors (woody herbs like rosemary make interesting additions), you will want to steep the syrup with the flavoring for about half an hour. Allow the mixture to cool, and reserve it in the refrigerator until you need it. I've kept mine for around a month at a time before running out. I suspect it would last much longer, though it might require an additional heating eventually, if the sugar re-crystalizes.

For my most recent batch, I made Horehound simple syrup by melting horehound candy (itself just sugar and flavoring) and combining it equally with water according to the above method. My intention is to present it to Anvil bartender Chris Frankel, in an ongoing exploration of cocktails made from unusual ingredients.

For your own simple syrup, consider how you'll use it. If it's going in iced tea, a basic concoction might be best. Then again, you might want to infuse it with mint, or go for a darker flavor by using a sugar that contains some molasses, like demerarra or turbinado. Really, the possibilities are endless. Want a hint of vanilla? Steep a pod in your syrup. Prefer a spicy-sweet kick? Add a dried chile pod. The point is, simple syrup makes chilled beverages so much better, and requires so little effort, that there's no reason not to make it. So what are you waiting for?



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6 comments
Fulmer
Fulmer

It's a good idea in concept & execution is easy enough, but I don't think most people want it. I worked at a high end restaurant that served small hand held metal pitchers of simple syrup with ice tea orders. The vast majority were not used resulting in issues of waste, storage and the occasional spills. The service was discontinued for lack of usage by the diners.

Wade Woodard
Wade Woodard

if you add about 1 tablespoon of Vodka per 16 oz of simple syrup, it will keep longer.

Jennifer
Jennifer

I make mine in the microwave using a 2 cup measure. I cook it for 3 minutes on high in my 1100W microwave. If it's plain, I let it cool for about 15 minutes before pouring it into the bottle I use to dispense. If it's flavored, I let it cool to room temp and then remove whatever I used to flavor it (vanilla bean, herb, or citrus zest). In addition to mint syrup, I've made orange, lemon, lime, and thyme. I use the syrup primarily for iced tea, but the thyme syrup is great in spiked lemonade.

Hawk Eye
Hawk Eye

Dale DeGroff, aka King Cocktail has a no heat method. Prepare your 50/50 mix and shake for a minute, then shake it again 5 minutes later and you're done. It works but I haven't tried it with flavored syrup.

mfsmit
mfsmit

Any place that serves iced tea or iced coffee ought to have this available, since granulated sugar doesn't dissolve in cold liquids.

I keep squeeze bottles of basic and turbinado simple syrup on hand. One of my favorite applications: adding a squeeze of simple syrup and several dashes of cocktail bitters to a bottle of Pellegrino.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

Do you think it had anything to do with people simply not knowing what to make of it, or do you think that iced tea drinkers either A) prefer unsweetened, or B) like bits of granulated sugar floating in their (still basically unsweetened) tea?

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