Make Better Cocktails Instantly with Simple Syrup

simple syrup recipe use

Simple syrup is one of the most basic components you’ll need when building a home bar. It’s used in hundreds of cocktails, and with few exceptions it’s a much better option than using granulated sugar, which really doesn’t dissolve well at all in cold liquids.

You can buy simple syrup, but making it is, well, simple. Grab a pan, put it on the stove, turn the burner to high, add equal parts water and sugar, and stir. You don’t have to bring it to a boil or reduce it, just wait until all the sugar has melted away, turn off the heat, let it cool, and bottle it. Like that, it will keep in your fridge for a good two months. If you want to make it even more stable, add half an ounce of vodka, after cooling, per cup of simple syrup. That’ll keep for ages and add only a marginal amount of alcohol to a cocktail (about the same amount as a dash or two of bitters).

You can make flavored simple syrups by adding items to the syrup while it’s heating – lemon rinds for example – but keep in mind that oils and other components introduced by this step will reduce the shelf life. It’ll grow mold after a month or so.

Variations include “rich syrup” made with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. This thick syrup still mixes better than straight sugar, and allows you to add more sweetener with less water content. Also worth considering are syrups using muscovado, demerara or turbinado sugars – brown sugars with higher molasses content that add a distinctive note to any cocktails and work especially well with dark rums and whiskies. Muscovado is particularly strong.

Simple syrup: so simple, there’s no reason not to make it yourself.

Christopher Buecheler is a professional web designer and a published author who lives with his wife and two cats in Providence. When not working, he is usually making and enjoying cocktails, brewing and enjoying beer, playing video games or the guitar, and following the NBA. You can check out his personal blog or his writing blog for more info.

  • Michael

    Nice article. I don’t why I always forget to buy/make my own simple syrup- It’s dead simple to make, and even if I’m lazy it’s only a few dollars

    • Tom

      Actually a matter of cents…water is basically free and the sugar is cheap as all get out. Starting to make my own simple syrup years ago is what took my margaritas to a whole new level.

  • Andres Herrera

    Its like you read my mind sometimes! Ha! Love it, so just to be super clear, 1 cup of water = 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of water = 2 cups of sugar etc?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30505755 Cj Pomerantz

      I tended bar all through college and I always did 2:1 sugar:water. You don’t need as much per drink so the main alcohol ingredient still shines through. Also key, don’t just use a normal bottle, use a plastic squeeze bottle (think hot dog stand ketchup bottle). Makes clean up and measurement SO much easier.

    • http://cwbuecheler.com/ Christopher Buecheler

      You can go 1:1 or 2 sugar to 1 water. Any more sugar than that and it gets REALLY thick and hard to manage. I prefer 1:1 but Cj makes a good point about 2:1. Also, he’s totally right about the squeeze bottles.

  • BK

    Part of the fun of making cocktails is the process. The key to making the sugar dissolve is a little bit of warm water.

    • Justin Tessier

      Interesting, although I’m not sure I’d use warm water in a cocktail I’d like to be cold. Seems like it’d either end up with a more watered-down drink (since it would melt the ice quicker), or you’d have to wait for the water to cool down. I’ll have to give it a try, though.

      • Andrew Bautista

        Once you’ve dissolved the sugar into the water, you can cool the syrup and the sugar will stay dissolved.

  • Justin Tessier

    In the recipe I use, one tsp of simple syrup has the same sweetness as 1 sugar cube (which is a teaspoon as well). That way, when a cocktail recipe (like an Old Fashioned) calls for a sugar cube, just throw in a tsp of SS instead and you’re still on the ball. The ratio here is 4 parts sugar to 3 parts water. All other directions stay the same. Credit to http://www.artofdrink.com for the recipe.

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