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.