Once you master making homemade simple syrup, you’ve officially crossed the threshold of adulthood. It means that you’re longer a college student that will use just about any liquid beverage as an alcohol mixer, including Jell-O. To make simple syrup is to up your cocktail game exponentially, from average to elegant. If you’re not a frequent drinker, it’s also a perfect ingredient to have on hand for homemade fresh basil lemonade, sweet tea or iced coffee.
In short, simple syrup lives up to it’s name: simple to make, simple to use. It might not improve any other areas of your adult life, but it will certainly impress your grown-up drinking buddies. Simple syrup, by definition, is a sweet, thick liquid made of two ingredients: sugar and water. What sets it apart from its humble components is that it dissolves completely in beverages that require sweetener.
To make homemade simple syrup, combine one part sugar and one part water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves (which it should in just enough time to pour yourself a glass of wine).
Once you can’t see any sugar in the solution, take the saucepan off the heat and cool before using. If you prefer to use a natural alternative, you can use honey, agave nectar, brown sugar or demera (turbinado) syrup in place of white cane sugar.
If you don’t use it, infuse it
Simple syrup is a kitchen staple for any last-minute sweetener needs, but it’s also a canvas DIY it: infusions. You can take almost whatever is in your kitchen and infuse your simple syrup with seasonal flavor. Add your herbs or whole spices along with the sugar and water before heating. Follow the usual steps for making simple syrup, but strain herbs or spices before storing syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Growing a garden full of fresh basil? Infuse the leaves into this syrup and mix up some fresh lemonade or a strawberry martini.
Jewel-toned beets add an earthy sweetness to cocktails, like Bon Appetit’s Beetnik Martini.
Give your flavored tea some Middle Eastern flair with a splash of cardamom spice.
Add a splash of heat to cocktails like the Boukman Daiquiri and The Cinnsation with this simple cinnamon syrup.
With a bright, gingery zing, this is perfect for a homemade ginger ale. If you’re an imbiber, use ginger syrup in a moscow mule or to splash into cocktails.
Versatile lavender syrup is lovely in everything from fresh-squeezed lemonade to champagne cocktails. Get creative with a tea-based mocktail for a pre-bedtime sip.
A refreshing flavoring no matter what the season, mint is delicious in iced tea or coffee, along with wintery desserts and dessert martinis. Or, make an off-season mojito and pretend you’re in the tropics.
If floral flavoring is your game, add rose petals to a champagne cocktail for a splash of floral sweetness.
One of the culinary world’s most versatile spices, tarragon syrup flavors simple cocktails with an earthy bouquet and clean finish.
When fall and winter roll around, use thyme to add a woodsy flavor to citrus based cocktails. In the summer, add a unique flair to lemonade or punch.
Vanilla adds its own distinctive taste to everything from cakes to cocktails. This one will never last long in the fridge, since it’s as delectable in coffee and dessert as it is in a dessert cocktail.