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Cocktail Syrups

Updated: Mar 9



How to Elevate Your Cocktails with Homemade Syrups


While many cocktails rely on the combination of different alcohols, mixers, and garnishes, one often overlooked element that can truly elevate (or undermine) your drink is the cocktail syrup. Fresh homemade cocktail syrups add depth, complexity, and a touch of sweetness to your creations, allowing you to customize your cocktails to your liking. Cocktail syrups are easy to make and keep for more drinks later. 

 

The Basics of Making Cocktail Syrups

 

Before diving into the recipes, let's understand the basics of cocktail syrups. Syrups are created by dissolving a sweetener in water, and they can be infused with various flavors to complement different cocktails. The most common syrup used in cocktails is called “simple syrup”, which consists of equal parts white sugar and water. However, you can experiment with not only the different types of sugar like brown sugar, demerara sugar, honey, agave nectar but even with the amount of sweetener used and even adding herbs to provide unique flavors to your syrup, and ultimately your cocktails.

 

Simple vs Rich Cocktail Syrups

 

Simple syrup is a common ingredient in a wide range of cocktails for its versatility. It has a neutral sweetness that doesn't have a distinct flavor. It primarily serves to sweeten cocktails without adding any particular taste. It works well in cocktails that require a lighter, more subtle balanced sweetness without overpowering the other flavors in the drink. Simple syrup is usually thin and watery and as such doesn’t provide much in the way of texture and silkiness to a cocktail.

 

On the other hand, a "rich" cocktail syrup is typically used when a sweeter and more concentrated syrup is desired in a cocktail. It is made with a higher ratio of sugar to water (2:1) compared to a simple syrup ratio of 1:1. Here are some situations where a rich syrup might be used instead of a simple syrup:

 

Stronger Flavors: Rich syrup is often used in cocktails with stronger flavors, such as those that include dark spirits like whiskey or aged rum. The rich syrup can provide a more pronounced sweetness that can stand up to the bold flavors in these drinks.

 

Sipping Cocktails: Cocktails that are meant to be sipped slowly, like an Old Fashioned or a Sazerac, can benefit from the use of a rich syrup. The higher sugar concentration adds a smoother and more robust sweetness that complements the slow sipping experience.

 

Barrel-Aged Cocktails: When aging cocktails in barrels, the flavors can mellow and become more concentrated. Using a rich syrup in the cocktail recipe helps to maintain a balanced sweetness even after the aging process.

 

Dessert Cocktails: Cocktails that are designed to be like a dessert, such as a Chocolate Martini or a Tiramisu Cocktail, often call for a rich syrup. The higher sugar content adds a luscious and decadent sweetness that pairs well with the dessert-inspired flavors.

 

Ultimately, the choice between using a rich syrup or a simple syrup depends on the desired flavor profile and the specific cocktail recipe. For all syrup recipes below, remember all you need to do to make it a Rich syrup, is to double the amount of sweetener to be dissolved. It's always a good idea to experiment and adjust the sweetness level according to personal taste preferences.

 

Making cocktail syrups is easy

 

The key in making any syrup, regardless of the ratio amount used, is the “sweetener” being fully dissolved, in very hot water. Begin by adding sweetener to water in a saucepan, whisking occasionally over medium heat until the sweetener has completely dissolved. For making small batches of syrup in the microwave, you can use a microwave proof glass measuring cup. In either case, remove from heat and here is where you would add any additional ingredients such as fruit juices and / or herbs, if desired and let cool. Once cooled, strain into a glass container with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate where the syrup should keep for 2 weeks to a month. All the recipes below use this cooking method with the real differences being if you choose to add different types, as well as amounts of sweeteners, and / or juices or herbs.

 

Cocktail Syrup Recipes

 

Classic Simple Syrup



Simple syrup, often referred to as "bar syrup", is the standard syrup used in most cocktails calling for a sweetener. Its simple and easy to use. Below are a few examples of cocktails that use simple syrup, but it can be used in many other cocktails as well as it's a versatile ingredient that adds sweetness and enhances the flavors of various drinks.

 

Mojito, Whiskey Sour, Margarita, Daiquiri, Old Fashioned, Espresso Martinis

 

Simple Syrup Recipe: 1:1 sugar to water

 

There are ways to lessen the syrup calories but since you don’t really use that much syrup in a cocktail, it may not be worth it as you may be losing the taste benefits of the syrup in the cocktail.


TIP: If you do decide to use artificial sweetener, use a quarter part less than the basic recipe as it will be too sweet if you use a full 1:1 ratio.

 

“Artificial sweetener” Simple Syrup: ¾: 1 sweetener to water

 

Demerara Syrup



Demerara syrup is a rich and flavorful syrup made from Demerara sugar which is a type of raw cane sugar with large, golden-brown crystals that adds rich molasses and caramel-like flavors to cocktails over that of simple syrup. Below are a few cocktails that often call for Demerara syrup, but it can be used creatively in various other cocktails below to add depth and flavor. Use “turbinado sugar” if you can’t find demerara sugar.

 

Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Rum Punch, Mai Tai, Espresso Martini, Piña Colada, Zombie, Navy Grog, Scorpion Bowl, Jungle Bird, Painkiller, Daiquiri

 

Demerara Syrup Recipe: 1:1 demerara sugar to water

 

Brown Sugar Syrup

 


Brown sugar is a combination of white sugar and molasses, which gives it a slightly caramel-like flavor. Brown sugar syrup has a sweeter and more mellow taste compared to Demerara syrup’s pronounced molasses flavor and a deeper sweetness, but it still adds a touch of richness and sweetness to cocktails. As you have read so many times by now, the choice between the two syrups depends on the specific flavors you want to achieve in your cocktail. It's worth noting that you can create a brown sugar cocktail syrup by dissolving brown sugar in water, but if a recipe specifically calls for Demerara syrup, it is best to use Demerara sugar to achieve that unique flavor profile. Here are a few examples of cocktails that can incorporate brown sugar syrup.

 

Old Fashioned, Mojito, Hot Toddy, Whiskey Sour, Espresso Martini

 

Brown Sugar Syrup Recipe: 1:1 brown sugar to water


Cane Syrup



As Demerara and Brown sugar syrups are not the same, the same is true for simple syrup and cane syrup. Simple syrup is made with granulated sugar where cane syrup is made specifically from cane sugar which adds more body and has a slightly richer, more complex flavor depth than simple syrup by contributing a subtle caramel-like flavor that comes from the cane sugar. It adds depth and complexity to cocktails, giving them a hint of sweetness with a touch of molasses-like undertones. It’s perfect when you’re looking for something more than a simple syrup but subtler than Demerara. And where simple syrup has no texture, cane syrup tends to be slightly thicker and more viscous. The thicker texture of cane syrup can add a silkiness and richness to cocktails. As always, which syrup you select is up to you and desired cocktail tastes. Here are a few examples of cocktails that can incorporate cane syrup.

 

Mojito, Daiquiri, Margarita, Whiskey Sour, Tom Collins, Side Car, Espresso Martini

 

Cane Syrup Recipe: 1:1 cane sugar to water

 

Agave Nectar Syrup



Agave nectar syrup, which is derived from the agave plant, is a popular alternative sweetener used in cocktails. It has a mild and slightly honey-like flavor that adds a touch of sweetness. Although mostly used as a sweetener in cocktails that feature an agave-based spirit, agave syrup with its mild flavor and natural sweetness makes it a popular choice for those looking for an alternative to cane syrup or simple syrup. It’s also great with flavor-neutral ingredients such as vodka, as it lends a little more color to an otherwise clear drink. Agave syrup is optimal in cocktails where you don’t want the sweetness to come through on the finish but still need it to balance a sour, or bitter, component. Here are some cocktails that commonly incorporate agave nectar syrup.

 

Margarita, Paloma, Mojito, Old Fashioned, Mezcal Mule, Tequila Sunrise

 

Agave Nectar Syrup Recipe: 1:1 agave nectar syrup to water to begin but don’t be afraid to increase the agave nectar amount if you want more sweetness.

 

Honey Syrup

 


Adding honey is much easier to incorporate into a cocktail if it’s done as a syrup and not raw where is sticks to bottom of the shaker. This syrup adds a touch of sweetness and a unique flavor profile. You can double the amount of honey used to make your syrup, which will enhance the cocktail's mouthfeel and create an even richer taste. Even a 3:2 ratio honey to water helps keep the honey’s viscosity. Here are some cocktails that often incorporate honey syrup.

 

Bee's Knees, Gold Rush, Hot Toddy, Penicillin, Honeybee, Brown Derby

 

Honey Syrup Recipe: 1:1 honey to water

 

Mint Syrup



Use this syrup to add a refreshing mint flavor to a variety of cocktails. It pairs well with spirits like rum, vodka, or gin. Mint cocktail syrup can be used in a variety of drinks to offer a twist to a simple Vodka Soda with its refreshing and herbaceous flavor. Here are a few popular cocktails that use mint syrup as an ingredient but feel free to experiment and get creative with mint syrup in your cocktails.

Mojito, Mint Julep, Mint Chocolate Martini, Minty Lemonade, Mint Margarita

To make a mint cocktail syrup, you'll need a few simple ingredients and a little bit of time. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make it:


Recipe Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup fresh mint leaves

 

Instructions:

Make a simple syrup recipe of 1:1 sugar to water and prepare as normal.

When sugar has dissolved completely add washed mint leaves and stir to combine.

Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.


After simmering, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the syrup cool completely. This will allow the flavors to further develop and the mint to infuse fully.

Once cooled, strain the syrup through a fine-mesh to remove the mint leaves.


Transfer the syrup to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

Ginger Syrup



Use this syrup to add a spicy and aromatic ginger flavor to a variety of cocktails. It pairs well with spirits like rum, whiskey, or vodka. Ginger syrup adds a spicy kick to an Old Fashioned for example. Ginger cocktail syrup can add a delightful kick to a variety of cocktails so get creative and enjoy the unique taste of ginger in your homemade cocktails. Here are a few popular cocktails that use ginger syrup as an ingredient.


Recipe Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

 

Instructions:

Make a simple syrup recipe of 1:1 sugar to water and prepare as normal.

When sugar has dissolved completely add freshly peeled ginger slices and stir to combine.

Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the ginger flavors to infuse in the syrup.

After simmering, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the syrup cool for about 30 minutes to an hour. This will allow the flavors to further develop and the ginger to infuse fully.


Once cooled, strain the syrup through a fine-mesh to remove the ginger pieces.

Transfer the syrup to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

Lemon Basil Syrup



Ok, this syrup has a little more work to it but not so much that you should pass on it. Lemon Basil Syrup is fragrant and provides a wonderful citrus note. You can use this syrup to add a zesty lemon and herbaceous basil flavor to a variety of cocktails. Experiment with different spirits like vodka, gin, or tequila, and mix in some fresh ingredients and garnishes to create your own signature lemon basil cocktail. This pairs wonderfully with mimosas and batch drinks too!

 

Recipe Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

Zest of 1 medium lemon (hold on to lemon to use its juice)

Juice of 2 medium lemons

Handful of fresh basil leaves

 

Instructions:

Lemon Basil Simple Syrup: Make a simple syrup recipe of 1:1 sugar to water and prepare as normal. When sugar has dissolved completely, remove from heat.


To the saucepan, add the lemon zest and stir to infuse a bright citrus flavor.

Add the juice of 2 medium lemons which will bring a tanginess to the syrup.


Tear a handful of fresh basil leaves into smaller pieces and them to the saucepan. The basil will infuse the syrup with its aromatic and herbaceous notes. Stir gently to distribute the basil leaves.


Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.


After simmering, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the syrup cool completely. This will allow the flavors to further develop and the basil to infuse fully.


Once cooled, strain the syrup through a fine-mesh to remove the lemon zest and basil leaves.


Transfer the syrup to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.



Vanilla Simple Syrup



Vanilla Syrup has a different sweetness and it too is very fragrant. You can use this syrup to add a vanilla flavor to a variety of cocktails especially chocolate and coffee flavored. Make this recipe as a batch due to its versatility in both cocktails and baking.

 

Recipe Ingredients:

1 Cup Water

1 Cup Sugar

1 Vanilla Bean, split length wise


Instructions:

Make a simple syrup recipe of 1:1 sugar to water and prepare as normal. When sugar has dissolved completely, remove from heat.


To the saucepan, add the vanilla bean and stir to infuse its flavor and let steep for an hour.


Once cooled transfer liquid and vanilla bean to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

Sour Mix Syrup



A sour mix is a type of cocktail syrup commonly used in various cocktails to provide a balance of sweetness and acidity. Often called “sweet and sour mix”, sour mix is really nothing more than simple syrup spiked with citrus juices and can be a convenient and time-saving ingredient for making cocktails that require a balance of sweet and sour flavors in your cocktails. While you can buy pre-made sweet and sour mixes at the store, try making your own. It’s easy and tastes so much fresher and cleaner in my opinion – without the heartburn pre-made store bought sour mixes give me. Sour mix is a versatile ingredient that is used in several classic cocktails.

 

Margarita, Mexican martinis, Whiskey Sour, Tom Collins, Daiquiri

 

Sour Mix Syrup Recipe: if house made simple syrup is available but no house made sour mix is ready, for an individual cocktail or two, follow the ratio of 1:1:1 (simple syrup : fresh lemon juice : fresh lime juice) and add to cocktail.

 

If the syrup is for batch drinks (pitcher of margaritas for example), make a larger batch of sour mix using this ratio: 1:1: ½ : ½ (sugar : water : fresh lemon juice : fresh lime juice) and add to saucepan and prepare as if it was simple syrup. Once cooled, transfer the sour mix to a clean bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

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