Cocktails have a basic structure, we add the spirits, something sour, and something sweet then we build and create from there. Let’s talk about that something sweet.
Syrups date back to the early settlers in Northern America and Canada when they came across the Native Americans using this liquid for cooking. How was syrup discovered you ask? Well the key is in the maple trees, it’s been said that the Native Americans discovered it on their journeys throughout the land and it was taught to these settlers.
We’ve all heard about maple syrup most popular with pancakes and waffles, but what about for cocktails? Of course we can use maple syrup in cocktails….buh wait we don’t have maple trees here! Yeah we have that bottled syrup, Sorrel syrup perhaps? it’s unfortunate. What if you want to use something locally inspired? Have no fear though you can make your own at home…it may not be maple but the flavours are endless once you know the basics!
So What Exactly is a Syrup?
By definition a syrup is made by dissolving sugar in boiling water to form a concentrated and thick liquid, this can often be used for preserving fruit, sweetening teas, pouring on desserts and so much more like COCKTAILS!
I’ve always been adventurous in the kitchen when it comes to sweet things. I’ve perfected a technique to make homemade syrups. It started off with my love for pancakes and as I transitioned into the exciting world of bartending I realized that syrups can take your drinks to a whole new level by adding richness and flavor notes that add to the overall deliciousness of your cocktail. Apart from that homemade syrups can help colo
r your creation based on the ingredients used in the syrup. Having said that, to make a cocktail variation simply changing the type of syrup used can give the cocktail edge and hint of flavour to spice up the taste.
Let's Make It!
So now you’re wondering, “ok so, how do I make my own thick sweet liquid to add to my cocktails?”
“Doh worry!”, I’ll tell you how, it’s very simple and maybe that’s why another name for it is simple syrup?
- A pot
- 2 cups of sugar (granulated or brown)
- 1 cup of Water
- A spoon
- A glass bottle
Add the water to the pot and bring to a boil, add the sugar stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the flame to low and let it simmer. The key to a thicker syrup lies in how long you let it simmer. This is basically lowering the water content in the mixture through evaporation. Once you’ve been simmering the mixture for about 3-5 minutes, turn off the flame and let it begin to cool. Once cool enough you can now start bottling your homemade syrup.
Another way to make simple syrup is to just add the water and sugar together and dissolve it by mixing them. This method is best when you need syrup and there’s no hot water available. The only thing is this method requires a lot more stirring. A great tip is to use room temperature water because we all know sugar takes longer to dissolve in cold water. Seriously, the cold water will really slow the process if you’re in a rush.
Different types of syrups
There are many types of syrups that are easy to make once you understand the basics. Most syrups are built on the foundation of water and sugar and the fun comes in when you add flavor by infusing this mixture.
There are many types of syrups that are used when making drinks, below is a list of the 5 most common sweet syrups used in the wonderful world of bartending.
- Simple syrup – granulated sugar and water
- Demerara syrup – demerara sugar and water
- Orgeat – blanched almonds, sugar, and water
- Agave – Agave nectar and boiling water
"Just follow the basics and add some sweetness to everything...in moderation of course!"
Infusing homemade syrups is a great way to add more flavor to your creations. Some infusions can be as simple as adding Rosemary or orange peel to the pot of boiling water. The boiling water extracts the “essence” of whatever you put into it and the sugar sweetens it. But be careful some additives can be overpowering so a little at a time till you get that taste you desire. Do not let this deter you though, pick up your favorite ingredient and start experimenting you may discover something new. Infused syrups are not limited to just fruit, you can use your favorite coffee, tea, or even produce the possibilities are really endless. Just follow the basics and add some sweetness to everything…in moderation of course!
Apart from the common sweet syrups, there are 13 types of syrups that can take your drinks to the next level. Some of these will blow your mind.
How to store
Basic homemade syrups have an unpreserved life of approximately 1 to 4 weeks, and this is entirely dependent on the number of ingredients used in the syrup. Simple syrup can last up to 4 weeks once stored in an airtight glass container in the fridge. Whilst other more complex syrups such as orgeat and syrups like falernum will last sometimes a solid week. To be safe, the best bet is to frequently check the quality of your syrup to ensure that it’s still good. A great way to tell if your homemade syrup has gone bad is the smell and the taste. Once it smells like it’s started to ferment and tastes like it’s gone sour, throw it out and make some more!
Is it Sweet Enough?
To sum up! Syrups are an essential part of cocktails. It is an easy ingredient to make once you understand what it is. Not only is it usually the source of sweetness in your drink, but it is also sometimes the source of richness and complexity. When experimenting with the creation of homemade syrups don’t be shy, add some fruit juice, maybe some alcohol, or maybe both. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Remember to always keep it fun and a little at a time goes a long way! Happy syrup making!
Want to talk more about homemade syrups? Check me on Instagram and if this blog post inspired you to make a batch of syrup, check out our Cocktail Recipes section for some sweet ways you can enhance your mixology knowledge.